Our Latest Experience Design Project: #HomeOffice

written by Katja Kolmetz. founder of Human Deluxe, @katja.kolmetz

Regardless of whether it’s governmental rules, self-imposed quarantine or closed office locations - most of us are working from home these days.

Most of us are also in the fortunate position that #homeoffice isn’t completely new to us. But while it’s been perceived as a perk or an expression of freedom in the past (“My manager allows working from home, yay!”), Corona has changed - or let’s say diversified - the appreciation for working from home. With crying babies, unstable wifi or sole loneliness, it has just lost some of its shine.

And after all, we never chose to entirely work from home, right?

We’ll never go back to how things were To make things worse, all of us are confronted with a lot of uncertainty these days. Above all, the uncertainty of not knowing when we’ll finally be able to go back to ‘normal’ again. Yet, we might already know the answer to this one. Experts suggest that, regardless of the end of the crisis, we will never go back to how things were (also read: Why you may still be working from home after the coronavirus crisis is over).

In short, the Corona crisis will change how we behave in our private and professional lives. And since we were forced into experiencing this new isolated and digital life, we are likely to scrap what’s bad and keep what’s good about it after the crisis. Including #homeoffice.

But first, we need to figure out how to make #homeoffice a good experience. Good meaning happy, healthy, and productive.

And as we’re still figuring out how to master remote collaboration, here are a few things that helped me and my co-founders at Human Deluxe:

1 Take Full Control

In times of rapid change and feeling helpless, it’s important to get back in charge. Certainly, there are a lot of things we cannot influence or predict at the moment, but there are quite some things that are within our scope of action.

Think of questions such as where to set up your ‘work station’. One of my co-founders is using our office together with his oldest son now, my other co-founder has moved to his family’s cottage surrounded by nature. A friend who’s living alone has overcome loneliness by granting asylum to someone who had a hard time working from home due to her noisy roommates.

There are many examples, but they have one thing in common: It’s important to focus on the things we can control to make working from home a positive experience.

2 Find Out What’s Missing

Through the massive change of isolating at home, there are definitely things that got lost on the way. Just like we advise our clients who want to translate a successful offline experience into the digital world, we now need to remind ourselves to follow the same rules.

It usually starts by identifying the value drivers of a successful offline experience and getting creative about turning them into something digital. For myself, a core driver was the great atmosphere we had in the office. I missed having laughs and chats with my co-founders, so we started doing more video chats and recording voice messages to make our communication more personal.

3 Creativity

Apart from the lack of personal contact, remote creativity was one of our biggest challenges at Human Deluxe. Our studio office is an amazing creative space with whiteboards, sharpies, sticky notes… Everything a creative’s heart could possibly desire.

And while my dinner table is starting to look equally ‘creative’, we decided to introduce some remote techniques that would help ourselves and others be creative together.

We already had experience in facilitating remote creative sessions with our international clients, so we started sharing remote collaboration templates for Brand Sprints, Lightning Decision Jams, Messaging Workshops etc. You can find them at www.humandeluxe.com/remote

4 Structure Your Day

One of the major challenges of any remote worker is the lack of external structure. It’s suddenly up to us to divide the day into manageable chunks of focus time, collaboration, family, and relaxation. Google’s in-house productivity expert, Laura Mae Martin advises planning your day the night before.

So, we started doing this at an individual level and get together every morning to kickstart the day with a standup call. During the 30-min call we update each other, discuss our planning, and identify dependencies between different workstreams. We meet every morning at 9.30 am, regardless of whether anyone is still eating cereals or changing diapers. No excuse.

5 Empathy

Sharing is caring. In a remote setting more than ever, it’s important to share contextual information with our colleagues proactively. We’ve had situations in which some of us felt lonely and stressed, or the family bliss went out the window.

Mental health is everything and while we don’t have coffee chats and physical shoulders to cry on, it’s important to make room for this during remote collaboration, too. It also helps strengthen existing relationships and lay the foundation for successful teamwork.

6 Define Channels

Many of us are using a combination of Email, Slack, MS Teams, WhatsApp, Zoom, ….. the list is endless. Now that all our communication has shifted online, it’s a good time to reflect and determine which channel we want to use for which purpose.

At Human Deluxe, we decided to keep all internal communication in Slack, Meetings in Hangouts, and Customer Communication in Email. Find out what works for your business, set rules and try to stick to them for streamlined communication and minimal noise.

7 Try New Tools

This is also a great time to experiment with new tools addressing some of the gaps that were previously filled by personal communication. We started to try out remote meeting assistants like Navigator and Dabra by SAP to better structure our remote conversations and keep track of the resulting action items.

8 Efficiency

With countless distractions and a flexible schedule, working from home can easily reduce your efficiency. In addition to our daily planning sessions, we found it useful to use Toggl for time tracking.

With the click of a button, we can now track how much time we spend on a project and map this against our planning in Trello. Toggl also has a feature that reminds you to take regular breaks according to so-called Pomodoro intervals of 25 minutes. Maximum focus.

9 Unplugging

According to the State of Remote Work 2019 report, 22% of remote workers report that their biggest problem is to unplug. Whereas many of us recognize the problem of answering emails at 1pm or taking phone calls on the weekend, working from home does take it to the next level.

We naturally start associating our home environment with work, so it is critical to choose one specific spot to work from every day. Hint: it shouldn’t be your bed.

10 Make Changes

Last but not least, working from home has challenged us to critically assess our current collaboration and business model. We realized that we might host fewer F2F workshops and meetups, but that we are in a great position to facilitate remote workshops and share our learnings with others. So we launched an initiative called Get S#!t Done for those who are also stuck at home and what to be happy, healthy, and productive.

And while we’re still figuring out how to master new remote challenges every day, be assured that you can do so, too. It’s important that we empower ourselves and the people around us, so we can learn and grow - and emerge even stronger from this crisis.

I look forward to hearing about your #homeoffice experience.

Stay safe.

written by Katja Kolmetz. founder of Human Deluxe, @katja.kolmetz