Hello from tomorrow!
For the past 4 weeks, I have been working in and exploring Oslo and the rest of Norway. This extended trip came out of a rather brief trip I made to Norway in October of 2016, which left me awestruck with my jaw on the floor after only 3 days, leaving me eager to explore more of it. And Subtext, being the wonderfully supportive company that it is, provided me the opportunity to come back to Norway for a couple of months. This is both a wish granted for me to explore and experience a new place, and as a trial run for how working remotely (even 9 hours ahead) can work for our company, and the potential benefits it might provide.
I had 6 months to prepare for this trip so I researched countless articles on companies that use remote workers and what has worked and not worked for them. Here is the problem with those articles, all of the recommendations are great, in theory. I remember passing along ideas and saying, “Hey look! This looks like a cool tool! Or this is a cool idea on how they did whiteboarding remotely! And this is how they dealt with time zones!” The thing is, those tools and processes worked or didn’t work for their companies the same way that any processes or tools work for any company without a remote workforce. It all depends on what works for your team.
I don’t think you can really fully prepare for being a remote worker, until you’re actually remote.
Luckily our company is no stranger to working remotely. Subtext provides the flexibility to its employees to work from home throughout the week as needed. We generally have designated days, but with varying schedules and naturally occurring life hang-ups, sometimes working from home allows for better focus and to be more productive in the midst of all of these things. It works well for us. Since this is part of our weekly process, preparing to be away from the office for an extended period of time was made a lot easier.
Dealing with the time zone.
Oslo is 9 hours ahead of Portland, which makes overlapping with the rest of your team… interesting. On most days, I overlap with the rest of the office during their morning hours, while it is evening in Oslo. This means having a 3-to-4 hour window of time to fit in, as-needed, correspondence through Slack, collecting design feedback in TeamworkPM (our task management tool), and any internal or client calls in this time. I’m speaking for myself on this, but so far, this has seemed to work out just fine.
That being said, for the first part of the day, I am essentially working in the future (at least according to the Subtext office). Our project managers prepare my design tasks a day ahead of time, allowing me to work on those tasks during my mornings, so that those tasks are complete by the time everyone gets to the office the next day. Again, for the most part, this has seemed to work out well. There are the occasional delays in feedback, both internally and from clients with the time change, but nothing that is too abnormal outside of normal delays in feedback in any agency.
As far as tools go, we haven’t added any tools, other than a webcam. Slack or a quick phone call is sometimes all we need. We have used a webcam to help with whiteboard sessions. Even then, sometimes I’ll do quick mock ups or sketches and send pictures of those to my team while we’re on a call for quick confirmation.
We are finding that we haven’t had to change too much in our normal day to day-to-day processes to allow for remote work, even with the time difference. There is definitely an extra effort made by our project managers to make sure there is work scheduled for me, but things are working which is exciting! This trial run hopefully will open the door to future opportunities for the rest of the team, and maybe even lead to the idea of a remote office in this forever changing digital future. All exciting concepts in theory, but perhaps one day, a reality. 🙂