My first remote UX design job: lessons learned and how to stay sane

Hey, I’m (@kimchi4me) a UX designer who’s been working fully remote at a health and wellness company for the past year. I’ve never had the experience of being required to go into the office daily for a 9-5 workday and…I learned a lot. Let’s dive in.

Remote working relationships can be tricky

Some people don’t really think about making friends at work but I think that if you build friendly co-working relationships, you’ll enjoy working with someone more and have better communication. 

Be friendly, but not too friendly 

  • Schedule 1-1s to meet people when you join the team AND schedule occasionally meetings to chat and get to know each other. I have a few weekly/bi-weekly meetings with various UX team members to learn about their projects and work. I like to take those opportunities to learn and collaborate with other designers since we often don’t work on the same products.
  • Let coworkers know what your working hours are – if everyone works from 9-5 but you prefer 8-4, communicate it with your team so they’re not sending you messages when you’re not working.
  • Participate in company-wide social efforts like virtual socials and in-person happy hours. It’s nice to put a Zoom label and floating head to a 3D body sometimes. 
  • Read a UXB exclusive Design Communication Toolkit – Part 1: Communication Styles to learn more about how to effectively and efficiently communicate with your teammates.

Zoom fatigue is real

I didn’t realize this when I started working as a designer but I have lots of meetings. My input and opinions are often required for product decisions so aside from meeting with users, I also frequently meet with UX team members, developers, project managers, and my UX manager. 

While meetings a very critical for us to make decisions together or land on the same page, meetings back-to-back are often very draining and can make you feel unproductive because you haven’t done anything with the information you’ve received. 

How to beat remote work fatigue

  • Ask the meeting organizer if the meeting can be recorded for you to watch later – if a meeting is for training purposes or if you have overlapping meetings this can be helpful to better prioritize your time. Although be aware that sometimes you forget or push off “watching it later”.
  • During your interview with a company, ask about the meeting culture – I wish I knew before but you can ask generally how designers spend their time each day.
  • Try to schedule breaks and heads-down time if possible – I realize that if I kept my calendar completely open and let people book whatever, I’d often run into 3 back-to-back meetings. I like to block 1-2 hours on my calendar to give myself time to do undisrupted design work. 
  • Take time off between jobs, or if possible give yourself some mental break days. Sometimes you just need the time to yourself to recharge. 

Centralized docs, design files, and notes

When you work remotely, there’s something that always comes to me as a surprise… When someone leaves the company. Sometimes, you’re aware that they’ll be gone in 2 weeks, other times, you get to work on Monday and are greeted with a “deactivated user”. Therefore, it’s super important to centralize with your teammates where shared knowledge should be stored. 

Oftentimes, if you join an established UX team, there will already be a system in place but in case there isn’t, bring up the discussion of where files can be found. The last thing you want is to take over someone’s project after they’re gone and realize, you have no idea where things are and why certain design decisions were made. 

Putting your docs, design files, and notes in a shared space

  • Our UX team uses Figma so we have a UX Team and ‘Projects’ for each of our various products. Inside each project, files are named accordingly and we utilize thumbnail images to inform what a file entails.
  • Although I do have notes for myself written on Post-it notes, we also have meeting agenda documents, spreadsheets, and meeting recordings saved in a shared drive. Whether you’re using Google Drive, Microsoft products, or anything else, make sure your notes are accessible to other team members. 
  • Company-wide among the Product, Engineering, and UX teams, we use Confluence and Jira to organize project documentation and process. This is how we communicate cross-team and document our collaboration.
  • Practice documenting your work by setting up your Medium profile to read UX articles and write some of your own! 

Comfy office setups are important

With all the sitting you’ll do during your job it’s important to think about the equipment you need for work. You’ll want to have a nice setup so that you are comfortable and able to work… Just like how startups will often have snacks sitting around to entertain their employees. 

Ways to create a great working environment

  • If you get a budget, I’d ask how much you get to invest in some good furniture. I like a nice large desk that can be adjusted for standing and a good comfy chair for the many hours of sitting. 
  • Invest in a second monitor that you can mount with monitor arms. Extra space is a must for designing and I think monitor arms are great to move around your screen so you’re not straining your neck or eyes. 
  • Think about your input and output devices – do you need a dongle? Would a trackpad or mouse be better for designing? Maybe you’ll want a good headset since you’ll be in lots of meetings where you’ll be talking.
  • If you’ve read Design of Everyday Things, then you should know how important it is to design great things – your home office should be no exception to this rule. 

Normalize flexible work schedules

When I started working, I wasn’t sure how strict the work schedules were… At my first job, it seemed like the hours were 9-5 except when 5 PM rolled around, people were still working. I knew this because I was getting Slack messages and emails that seem semi-urgent until almost 7 PM. I later realized in my next job that work schedules can be relatively flexible as long as you put in the work. 

Getting your work done at your own pace

  • First and foremost, my calendar tells me what I’m doing or what’s coming up next. Therefore, if a meeting’s not on my calendar, I would risk forgetting it.
  • I use Slack statuses to inform my whereabouts whether I’m going on a 30-minute walk to get some steps in, in a meeting, or doing some heads-down work, my status will tell you what I’m doing.
  • Set timers to track your productivity level – this helps you if your get too laser-focused and forget to take breaks. If you track your work time, you’re also able to personally gauge your work output to determine if you’re able to meet certain deadlines.
  • Know when to step away from messages and email after your workday. One of the most common flaws of working remotely is overworking because there is an expectation to immediately respond at all times. Well, that’s not true so establish your work-life balance and stick to it. 
  • Read UXB’s Guide to Remote UX Design Jobs to learn more about the pros and cons of working remotely.

Takeaways

I think that remote and hybrid work is going to become the future of many tech companies. Or maybe that’s just the Gen-Z inside of me talking but regardless, I’m 100% pro-remote work since there are many pros for flexibility. I really enjoy not having to commute to work every morning because that allows me to have more time to make breakfast and do chores around the house before starting my day. It’s definitely a lifestyle choice but it might not be for everyone!

About the Author

Kim

Designer, foodie, and lover of aesthetics. A learning technologist by day and aspiring UX'er the rest of the time. Bringing to you the latest design tidbits.

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