Why would you want to work remote as a designer?

6 months ago from , Teamlead

Hi dear fellow designers,

I have this situation and would like to get your opinion on it:

I'm hiring. I will not further advertise, for that we have job boards. I have people applying and also people I personally reach out because of their portfolio and my believe they would be a good fit.

In the last few interviews I was quite surprised... most of the candidate want to work remote!

Yeah, I know it's possible. We live in a globally connected world and theoretically one could do everything virtually. Our company is also investing a lot of resources to enable that and I'm daily working with colleagues around the globe that I see only few times a year. We have flexible working hours... possibility to do home office etc.

But still... we have our offices. And we don't do remote only contracts. You either move to the region of the position (we even help you by moving) or not. And I believe that's good. Because even if we are doing and supporting all this virtual things, the most critical stuff get's still done face to face (and let's not even go into company culture)

Meeting with Product Owner, Devs, Stakeholders, End-users for god sake... face to face always wins! Especially if you are a designer! Going to a creative room with the team will produce so much more as a skype call!

So my questions are:

  1. Do you agree with my statement that face to face always wins or am I to old-school here?

  2. In case my statement is somehow true and you really strive to make a carrier as a designer - why the hell would someone want a remote only position?! How do you imagine this working out?

In point 2 let's ignore life situations e.g.: family sickness etc - that I can understand.

But I talked with young people with no apparent reason not to relocate and I have difficulties understanding them ... so I just want to recalibrate my view on the world here :)

Thx for any feedback!

39 comments

  • Ray SensebachRay Sensebach, 6 months ago

    For me, it boils down to a person's skills and priorities. Senior skills + the personal priorities which aren't being met by living in a city (where most design/tech jobs are) = the designer who wants to work remote.

    Skills

    I don't think that entry or mid level designers should work remotely. You absolutely learn more by being embedded, face-to-face with a team. You grow by watching those around you, having critiques and otherwise being a sponge. This is cross-discipline as you pick up things from everyone around you including inter-personal and other skills from managers, marketers and more. You develop empathy in working with development and other disciplines and get to know how your industry works.

    That said – I think more senior folks, who have hardened these skills over many years, have more flexibility in where/how they work. Some find that they work best in that face-to-face office environment, while others get the same amount of work done in a few focused hours from home. Most commonly, it's some mix of the two situations. Not 100% remote, but not 100% in an office.

    Priorities

    I touched on it already, but if your priorities are more urban-focused (culture, community, convenience, in-person friendships, etc) then there's little need for seeking the remote job.

    Other prioritize things like purchasing a home, being close to the mountains/beach, or living a nomadic lifestyle. Fixed geographic jobs generally don't allow for these priorities, or at least make them more difficult to realize.

    Some people thrive in a city, some do not. Personally – I'll take that 2 car garage with my letterpress workshop, close to the mountains with affordable housing and hiking any day. Keep your stinky city :)

    Just my 2cents, to each their own. I'm obviously in favor of remote design work myself. Though it does require a balance with some in-person sessions, visits, work weeks, something. It's a tricky balance.

    46 points
    • David SimpsonDavid Simpson, 6 months ago

      This is a great summation, exactly what I was thinking.

      1 point
    • Andre Jurgensen, 6 months ago

      I think this response hits it on the mark.

      I'm the only remote designer in a small studio that I've been with for ~4 years. I reached a point where the big city life was just not for me anymore and didn't fit my lifestyle, it was affecting my work and personal life in a negative way. When I decided that I was going to move to a small-ish mountain town, I brought it up with my employer and they were okay with keeping me on the team but reserved the right to call it off if things didn't work out. I'm happy to report that 1.5 years later, things are still going smooth and I've never been happier.

      Because I now live in a place where I can actually enjoy my personal life and be closer to nature, I'm producing better work and my overall stress has decreased immensely. I feel good about waking up every morning and getting work done because I know that I can I can be in complete isolation on my mountain bike within 30 minutes of my work space. Side note - Work hours are key! Being on the west coast and working around central time has been awesome. I'm naturally an early riser so there's been zero friction in work hours.

      With all that being said, being remote isn't a walk in the park. It takes a lot of effort and self discipline on my part to stay connected with the team (that responsibility should be on the remote worker). I try to make it down to HQ once a quarter and use the shit out of Slack. Collaboration is hindered but it gets easier with every new tool that comes out. I happen to have a really good relationship with my coworkers so we've made it work. There are definitely times where I wish I was sitting face to face with either my team or the client but I get past it.

      Hope this helps! I'm most definitely in favor of remote working and think that people/companies on the fence should absolutely give it a try, but, know that it's not ideal for every situation.

      6 points
      • Jan ZhengJan Zheng, 6 months ago

        Communicating with the team also turned out to be much, much harder. Although some tech can bridge the gap, things I miss are whiteboard sessions, watercooler moments, and just grabbing a beer with folks. There's some 'cultural glue' that gets missed out when working with a remote team—for me at least

        0 points
  • Mitch Malone, 6 months ago

    Why I like working remotely:

    • More time. No commuting so I get an extra 2 hours/day to workout, read, work, run errands. I can't tell you how much your life can improve with an extra 2hrs/day.

    • I'm healthier. Usually every week or so, someone on my team has to call out sick because of the open office environment they work in. I'm also eating food at home instead of grabbing lunch so I'm making better food decisions.

    • Lower carbon footprint. No commuting, no eating out = greener.

    • I can live where I want. We lived in SF where my office is and we didn't like it. Now we get to live in a place we love and can afford.

    • I'm happier. Happy people are usually better employees.

    28 points
  • Kevin SuttleKevin Suttle, 6 months ago

    Because an 'open office' is proven by research to be far more distracting and stressful. You need your own space. That 'co-location = collaboration' mentality is so far off.

    13 points
    • Dustin Locke, 6 months ago

      To be fair, I don't think he ever said anything about an 'open office.'

      Let's assume we're talking about a large office where each employee gets an individual office (obviously not the case for most of us). You don't believe being at close proximity with your PM, engineers, and stakeholders is at all beneficial?

      1 point
      • Dirk HCM van BoxtelDirk HCM van Boxtel, 6 months ago

        I think the quotes around open office mean it's not nessecarily one without walls. It means an office where others are able to walk in and interact. Each individual an office is a bit of a pipe dream for 95% of us.

        0 points
    • Johanna AbzugJohanna Abzug, 6 months ago

      100% agree with this. As a designer I find I get far more done in less time when I am working remotely. I have found being in office beneficial for project kickoffs, but once I have my marching orders, anything and everything becomes a distraction.

      3 points
    • Phil RauPhil Rau, 6 months ago

      I like it, personally. I find that I get more done at the office than I do working remotely, and we have an open office plan.

      0 points
  • Weston VierreggerWeston Vierregger, 6 months ago

    One reason: so I can live wherever I want.

    12 points
  • Andy LeverenzAndy Leverenz, 6 months ago

    My bullet point reasons for being remote for 4 years + now:

    • Freedom - I live an active lifestyle. I don't want to spend 8 hours of my day contained to one place with eyes always on me.

    • Technology - You may think in person is better/more productive but I believe the opposite. This is not to say that face-to-face doesn't work (in fact I think it's important to do this every so often ) but I don't think that the world we live in today requires such a feat. We are connected more than ever through instant message, voice, video, and more. While it's "different" than face-to-face I still think it gets the job done.

    • The agency life is meh - Personally, the agency life doesn't appeal to me. I do my best work alone. I'm an introvert and as a result, if given time to brainstorm ideas I tend to come up with a much better result than some sort of group work generated a concept. That said, I think critiques from peers are crucial to growing as a designer. Does this need to happen in person? Not necessarily. Screen sharing or annotations tend to capture the same message. Agencies can save so much more money by offering remote options as well. As a designer, I just want to do cool work and be creative. I don't need access to foosball tables or any beverage under the sun. I'm simple.

    • Office Space - when I think of working somewhere full-time I instantly queue office space scenes in my head. I also think about how archaic larger companies are. They move at a snail's pace in terms of modern tooling, workflow, and skillsets amongst creative teams.

    • ** No Commute ** - enough said really. Fewer emissions, less time, less money.

    I could go on...I also have a vlog on the matter but there are numerous ways why I think remote work is what will become the norm for many industries.

    8 points
  • Nitin GargNitin Garg, 6 months ago

    I have been working freelance/remote from 6 years now. After working 1 year at a studio. And for me, following have been deciding factors.

    1. Travel and Family – For every 45 days, I am with my family back in small native town for 15 days. And it has been rewarding. I could make more money by joining a large company full-time but I will lose this time that I get to spend with people who won’t be around me in future.

    2. Commute - Now, this is very specific to my location – New Delhi, India. I don’t understand why we don’t talk about this often here but It’s a little disturbing to me how we have normalised the idea of spending 1-3 hours of every day of your life stuck in pollution and rage-inducing traffic. I am sure if someone does a study, they will find direct relations to the mental and physical health of entire society as the whole. This personally for me has been a huge reason why I still freelance and do remote consulting.

    3. Personality – As an introvert, I find myself most efficient when I can sit in a quiet room by myself and work. I feel drained with Water cooler small talk and shoulder taps for lunch invites. Now since I don’t see my clients every day – I tend to be more efficient when I do go see them in few days or week. It encourages me to be in full energy for those 3 hours of face-to-face meetings and get the best out of them.

    6 points
  • Filippos ProtogeridisFilippos Protogeridis, 6 months ago

    Very nice subject to discuss, thanks for sharing your thoughts and questions. I have been in both sides of the equation, as I have been a design manager as well as a remote designer for several companies in the past couple of years.

    Remote works

    It does. It's effective. In most cases it solves the problem of distractions, as long as the employee is used to remote work and is serious about their work (but I'm making the assumption that we are talking about experienced designers and mid-senior roles).

    Remote requires structure and strict processes

    Scrum has to be scrum, meetings have to be timeboxed, everyone should focus on efficiency, and collaboration tools must be used properly in order to ensure maximum transparency for both in-house and remote employees. In order to build trust, both parties should make sure to reinforce the use of process and stick to it as much as possible.

    Cultural and personal connection is much harder

    While remote work is absolutely effective when done right, there definitely is a barrier between people that is much bigger than when working in the same space.

    Suggestions

    The fact that remote works doesn't mean that it's right for every company and team. I would advise most companies to work on building an in-house team first, and then consider working with remote employees too. Culture and team are two of your most important priorities when building a company, so you definitely want to prioritize this over efficiency. As soon as you have a cultural foundation, you can start working with remote employees and make sure to share that foundation with them so that working remotely doesn't feel like something completely impersonal and lifeless.

    Why do people like working remotely?

    We are living in such a transitional era when it comes to working in technology, where people are much less likely to change their whole lives in order to work in-house for a company, compared to let's say 5-10 years ago. Due to the power and flexibility developers and designers have nowadays, it's very common for people to prefer remote work, as it tends to be more efficient, doesn't affect their lives and habits as much, and strikes a good balance between career growth and personal happiness.

    2 points
  • Blagoja Karafiloski, 6 months ago

    You make some good points about the benefits of face to face interaction, it can lead to solving questions and problems quicker and easier than scheduling and meeting over skype. Also working in an office you get to know your coworkers and you exchange ideas.

    However, as many others have pointed out it comes down to a personal lifestyle choice. I currently work in an office for a small startup but am dying for the opportunity to be able to work remotely.

    1. I'm not sure where your office is but in NYC area we have to spend 45-60 min average one way to get to an office. That's two hours of your day wasted sitting in traffic or in cluttered bus/train.

    2. In an office, There's always something going on, people talking, someone coming over to ask questions that sometimes have nothing to do with what you are doing. It's distracting.

    3. If you trust your employees you can do everything over the computer. There are so many collaboration tools out there. You can do critiques, report bugs, you can do all of that remotely.

    4. Working from anywhere in the world. I love to travel. If you want to travel while working in an office, you have to ask your bosses for a vacation which you might not get and if you get it it's usually 1-2 weeks. Working remotely I can travel and work at the same time

    5. Family life. I can spend some time with the family during the day

    2 points
  • jj moijj moi, 6 months ago

    Face to face always wins - yes for collaborative work, meetings, etc. But for production work, working remotely is more ideal for distraction free environment. So sacrifice for skype meetings for a better output, I think that's profit. (unless the designers you're hiring will have meetings 80% of the time, then yeah, need to be co-located) And for some people, work/life balance is their priority and they want to control their own schedule. It can totally work fine with people who are aligned with the same ideas.

    1 point
  • Anastasia Trofimova, 6 months ago

    The time is the reason.

    I mean: I daily spend almost 3 hours in getting to work and going home. I could work and use these 3 hours for much better stuff. I could relax, think and develop an idea during these 3 hours. But I'm in the subway doing nothing or fighting for survive in that amount of people! Now I try to read useful stuff but it's so uncomfortable thing to do in the subway when I can't sit down because is full of people.

    I'm the only designer at my company, I work alone and I like it. I would LOVE to work alone at my home, with my bird, with my cat and wearing a pajama. For me it's a waste of time going to the office because I do the same or less work at office plus these 3 daily fucking hours of getting to my job and going home.

    1 point
  • Adam Hayman, 6 months ago

    It all comes down to the lifestyle you want. Absolutely, there is value in working face-to-face with clients and your team. You're totally right. And following that logic, you can argue that the work produced will be of higher quality.

    But even if all that is true, to a lot of people value living a certain lifestyle over quality of work. If it came down to it and I had the choice of either producing stellar work in a traditional office setting versus producing passable work while working remotely, giving me the freedom to set my own hours and work location, I'd take the remote job in a heartbeat.

    Sure, it may not be the best route to take to do the best work of my life, and is probably why this sort of setup isn't always attractive to employers, but I've found that working my butt off to create great work doesn't ultimately make me happy. The things that fulfill me are traveling, spending time with my family, and pursuing my hobbies.

    This isn't all to say you're wrong in how you feel. And remote workers aren't wrong in how they feel. It's just different. So as much as it sucks, just keep weeding through the folks that don't match your mindset until you find someone who does. They'll be your next hire. :)

    1 point
  • , 6 months ago

    Wow, thx so much for so many input!

    Some very interesting points! And honestly I'm again little surprised. From all the responses I see few points repeating:

    1. "distraction free" zone were you can better focus on your work and thus deliver better results

    2. Commuting is shit. It is waisted time and money.

    3. Freedom to Travel

    4. Lifestyle choice: more affordable housing, nature etc.

    • todays technology and tools enable us to do this. Face to face is important but for kick-offs or bigger important stuf but not daily business. Also remote more suitable for seniors.

    Going point by point, here what surprises me the most:

    1. We support home office. You need a day or two in the week to focus? Please, stay at home or wherever you want: I trust my team members. And I make this clear in my interviews (also we have quite few focus areas in the office). Still, candidate want remote only.

    2. Agree. I hate it also. But given our location (more on that later), most people don't have more then 30min commuting + combining that with home office and this point is minor.

    3. Pointing kinda back to point 1. Home office does not mean sitting at home - I have a lot of colleagues who are combining traveling with remote work. You can get cheaper flights by going 3 days earlier on your vacation but would need to work from there then? Be my guest. What is true on the other hand: a deal that you are 2 months on Bali and work from there is not possible.

    4. Understandable. And now we come to the surprise:

    Our HQ is in the "suburbs". Nature, lakes, mountains, all the sports possibilities you can imagine, relative affordable housing ... etc. We have it. Reading your comments this should be an asset, especially by getting seniors. But somehow, based on my interviews and feedback from other department this is very apparently not the experience we have. On the contrary: people seem not to want this life style. No matter the seniority.

    The experience I have is that candidates basically say: "I would like to work for you, but I would stay where I am - means remote work only. Can you offer me this?"

    Unfortunately we can't. Also given the job description I don't even see this working out. And since this is repeating quite often I was just wondering if this is the new reality in the industry (and I need to find a way to make it work) or my "bad luck" with candidates.

    Based on all the comments I have a feeling it's the later. Thus, some advertisement: in case you are curious, like an active lifestyle, flexible work environment and are from Europe - PM me! It seems quite some are :)

    1 point
    • jj moijj moi, 6 months ago

      I'd guess that your location is not interesting/popular enough for junior designers. You'd have better luck with more senior candidates who already plan to move to the suburbs, but only if they don't have kids yet, and are not already settled in their choice of suburbs.

      Also, check out remoteyear.com - a few colleagues of mine are traveling to a dozen countries for a year while working remotely. There's nothing wrong with working from Bali beaches. If they are good workers, they're good anywhere.

      0 points
      • Kristjan Gomboc, 6 months ago

        You are making a good point here. We are apparently not interested for young designers. Also not for the seniors already settled down. Only for those who are "thinking about moving"... Which makes the small pool of talent much much smaller obvious.

        As for the second point - long term remote working... I also believe it's possible. But only after a certain time frame (once you get used to the company and stakeholders... and they get used to you) + the company mind set. And we are not there yet. 1 or 2 days a week remote? Np. Being away for few months or basically remote only (from your first working day): nop.

        Also: I want designers to have a seat at the table. When decisions are made they should have a say. Not just do screen designs. And if important stakeholders are meeting and most of them are in the room + you dial in from a beach... your say will be much smaller. Means your impact on the business will be smaller.

        I guess there are trade-offs everywhere.

        0 points
    • James Young, 6 months ago

      Perhaps your location and in-office environment just aren't as appealing as you think?

      You mention supporting remote part-time and in the office for kick-off meetings occasionally but if that's a regular thing you'd still need someone nearby right?

      It's an interesting thread to follow - I agree with you that face to face in an office beats remote (I say this as CD of a small, distributed team too) but that having people full time remote hasn't been too much of an issue now we've had time to settle on processes that suit our team and client needs etc.

      In a day and age (and industry) where people no longer need to sit on a train or drive to work and waste those hours, it's actually nice to see that you're not getting the best candidates (I don't mean this in a negative way towards your company btw) because it shows that unlike past times in the industry people are focusing on lifestyle a bit more as part of a bigger picture.

      If you want the best people - work backwards from how they will fit in terms of doing the job and contributing to the team and company and then figure out to integrate them if they have different lifestyle requirements otherwise you end up picking the best of a smaller group.

      1 point
  • Mike AclerMike Acler, 6 months ago

    From the company's perspective, it should be "all or nothing" when you think about being remote. There's a nice article on this called Remote first vs Remote friendly: https://zachholman.com/posts/remote-first/

    0 points
    • , 6 months ago

      Thx for this one! Interesting read and good points.

      But from the article:

      "...remote-friendly — hiring some workers in a different city — and remote-first, meaning you build your development team around a workflow that embraces the concepts of remote work, whether or not your employees are remote..."

      I guess there is a third category. We at least name it "Flexible working". We namely don't hire from different cities but we do build up our processes to be remote-first because of offices around the globe. Nevertheless in case of hire, you still need to be somewhere around the office. If you are 3 days in and 2 days at home or on the road - ok, np.

      0 points
  • Rashan Casseus, 6 months ago

    I've done some projects remotely and worked in-house. The best work does happen when your in-house. But living anywhere on the planet has become a strong possibility now. With Skype and Googles Jamboard (https://gsuite.google.com/products/jamboard/) the times they are a changing.

    And if your a ux designer, you really should be face to face with your team and your users. But I'm old school too.

    0 points
  • Tony Jones, 6 months ago

    I'm more analytical than opinion-based on this subject, so i've read tons on studies on remote work vs in-person work. Most everything I've read has shown at large increases in employee productivity from working remotely. Also, people who like working from home are more likely to intentionally work harder to prove that working from home is a benefit to their employer.

    0 points
  • Karen Santiago, 6 months ago

    I would add the economic factor here.

    I currently work in a design studio in the city I spend around 20 USD daily, just to commute and eat whatever during work days. That's around 400 USD a month, roughly the same amount I pay for my studio apartment, almost an hour away from the office.

    Working remotely would save me at least half of that and I could get the time and the money to improve my quality of life.

    0 points
  • Max Quinn, 6 months ago

    Although I've never worked remotely full time, I'm in a position where I can work at home a few days a week and agree with most of the sentiments here.

    What I'm curious about though, is how people who are full time remote deal with user research, user testing etc.

    I've found that to be something that being face to face is invaluable for, both in terms of running sessions but also synthesizing results with other team members. Not to mention generally spreading the information around a company.

    Is that simply not part of your role, or is it something you're doing remotely?

    0 points
    • , 6 months ago

      Totally agree!

      I'm curious how others imagine doing that in case it's clearly stated in the role and people still suggest full time remote...

      Same as you I also found it invaluable and can't imagine that it would be equally or better some other way. But maybe my imagination has a certain limit :)

      0 points
    • John PJohn P, 6 months ago

      What I'm curious about though, is how people who are full time remote deal with user research, user testing etc.

      Would be great if some remote designers could chime in on this.

      0 points
  • John PJohn P, 6 months ago

    Do you agree with my statement that face to face always wins

    100%

    Will anyone who wants to work remote (MASSIVE perk) agree? hahaha absolutely not.

    Pains me to agree though because I'm awful about getting up and in on time.

    My advice would ber don't listen to your candidates and instead think of the rest of the team, if it going to be easy for them to work with a remote designer? Also keep in mind that hard working in house workers putting tough hours in are going to feel a bit shitty if remote workers get similar levels of pay to them.

    0 points
  • John JacksonJohn Jackson, 6 months ago

    I've worked remotely and I've worked in an office setting. I very much prefer a face-to-face setting. It just makes communication and collaboration easier. If I want to whiteboard with someone, I can grab a room with them; if I want to talk through something, I can grab a room.

    Some people work great remotely--don't get me wrong. It's just not for me.

    0 points
  • Dustin Locke, 6 months ago

    Hi Kristjan.

    Where I work (small startup) we require all our people to work in the office. I believe you're correct -- that being there will lead to better interaction and better work. There is no substitute for having a question and being able to take the key people into a room and hammer out a solution right there and then.

    On the flip side, I frequently dream about packing my little family in a motorhome and hitting the road for a year or two, working from wherever we find ourselves. I honestly think that's the motivation behind most young designers wanting to work remotely. And if you can find an org that's solved for remote work (i.e., Basecamp), that's great. It's a lifestyle thing.

    I'm still not convinced the work will be better, though.

    0 points
  • Priscilla NietoPriscilla Nieto, 6 months ago

    I do agree with your statement. I do believe that face to face interaction definitely stirs up creativity rather than simple Skype meetings. I feel like interaction with your team is essential! It gets the juices flowing allowing for a great creative environment. But I can also see how for some people who are not able to move just yet, will opt for working remotely.

    It all depends on everyone's situation. Getting a job where the company helps you with your move is amazing! Why would you work remotely then?

    Just my two cents. :)

    0 points
  • Pep TriasPep Trias, 6 months ago

    Hey Kristjan, not sure if it's been mentioned yet, but I'd recommend reading/listening to this book/audiobook about remote work: https://www.amazon.com/Remote-Office-Required-Jason-Fried-ebook/dp/B00C0ALZ0W/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1496929139&sr=8-2&keywords=remote+work

    There you'll find all the benefits and reasons why people are shifting from being ok with working in offices to preferring remote work.

    Cheers and good luck with the hirings!

    0 points
  • David Ghent, 6 months ago

    I completely agree with your take on the benefits of working in person. Hands down, its more productive in every way.

    I've been working as a designer for almost 10 years now. I've worked for a few agencies, both big and small, and its starting to grind me down a bit. With all the amazing-ness of collaboration comes the interpersonal issues relating to sustaining relationships. And maybe I'm more focused on that now because I've been working at Pivotal Labs, which is all design pairing, all the time.

    I have to say, the flexibility of working remote is extremely attractive. It kind of has this magical allure of a different lifestyle.. but I haven't done it for more than a few months at a time in my career, so I can't comment on how it really adds up.

    Hope the perspective helps!

    0 points