From Office to Remote UX Designer — How Does it Work?

Due to the global pandemic, people have been forced into remote positions, but some of us chose to go remote even before the term ‘social distancing’ was coined.

I started my first remote role as a UX Designer at Tyk in October 2019. You may ask, “How does being a remote UX Designer work? Is it possible? Can I be successful?” Well, I’m here to tell you yes, it can work! Of course, there are a lot of new normals that you’ll need to adjust to, but if you and your company have the right attitude towards remote work, it can enable you to grow your career.

What does it take to be a remote UX Designer?

You are the first obstacle when it comes to adjusting from an office worker to a remote worker. To have a successful remote UX career, you need to:

  • Have the confidence to ask questions, reach out for help and encourage collaboration. For me, this is the absolute key to success. If you’ve got this down, then you’re well equipped for a remote UX role.
  • Be independent — or have the desire to want to take charge of your task management.
  • Hold yourself accountable for your work.

How will I collaborate with my team?

This is probably the most common question. Collaboration tends to evoke images of working side by side in person — but it doesn’t have to be like this. There are so many great products that make remote collaboration simple.

At Tyk, we are big users of Miro and Figma. The UX team can get on a call together and contribute to brainstorming or design thinking workshops on Miro. And the best part? It’s all digital, so we can continue working asynchronously even after the call. Figma is the same and enables the UX, Design and Development Teams to work together on iterating and improving our products.

Along with these tools, we also have a private UX Slack channel to communicate, and a minimum of two UX calls a week, one to discuss planning and the other for a critique session. As long as you and your company are proactive, there is no reason for remote collaboration to be complicated.

Nielsen Norman Group has also put together an awesome remote UX resource with some guidance on collaboration and user research.

Illustration of 4 jigsaw pieces coming together: “My Idea, Your Idea, Their Idea, Our Idea”.
Collaboration can happen offline or online as long as you and your team make time for it.

Who will help me if I get stuck on a project?

If you have an issue in an office environment, it’s easy to peek over your computer and ask a question or walk over to a team and brainstorm solutions. Unfortunately, we don’t have this luxury when working remotely. So I’d first discuss with your UX Lead to understand the best way to manage this. It could be to jump on a 15-minute call or even send a short message on Slack.

Most importantly, don’t be afraid to speak up and voice that you’re stuck. It’s better to say, “Hey, I could do with some help on this” than to spend hours worrying or feeling blocked. Everyone wants you to progress with your work, and they’ll help you with it as long as you let them in.

Am I still able to learn and develop my UX skills?

100% yes. I learnt more in my first three months of working remotely as a UX Designer than I had in my office UX role of nearly a year. A significant change is that you have to become more responsible for your work. There’s no one breathing down your neck micro-managing you, so you need to keep yourself accountable. This alone empowers and helps you grow faster.

UX critiques and workshop calls are also essential to bounce ideas and get feedback from your team. Finally, just like an office environment, make sure to chat with your manager and let them know your personal UX career goals and work together on how you can achieve these.

I’m used to being around people — how can I cope by myself?

Working remotely doesn’t just mean you have to work from home alone. I live in an apartment with no outdoor space, and in my first week, I realised I hadn’t left the house in 48 hours — and that was pre-lockdown! For me, the answer was to join a shared workspace.

I signed up to Clockwise Belfast where I could sit at any table and work. The atmosphere is electric with friendly staff, a fantastic cafe and other incredible tenants to connect with. It felt like I was still getting the office experience, and it helped me keep a routine. You can also get out to public spaces like cafes or libraries.

Illustration of a laptop in the middle representing you and emoticons around it representing different teams.
Stay proactive and encourage connections between your team and the company.

What about connecting with my team and the company?

It can be a tough adjustment to not go into the office and miss that face time with your team. There are, however, ways you can manage this working remotely. One Tyk initiative to help facilitate this is ‘Cafe’ Zoom calls. These happen twice a week over different time zones and help bring teams together to chat about anything except work. It’s a terrific way to get to know people you don’t work directly with.

There’s also the occasional ‘after-work drinks’ calls with the company, your wider team or even one on one. Again, I’d recommend being proactive with this and making an effort to check in with people and ask how their life is going. It’s all too easy to become disconnected, and it’s an area that I’ve been improving on myself.

This all sounds great, but how do I get a remote UX position?

The best way would be to start applying for jobs at remote companies. If you are currently working in an office as a UX Designer, you can, of course, discuss the option with your manager and maybe start working remotely twice a week to try and see if it works for you and the company. However, it is more of a challenge if your company is office-based and everyone is going to work except you.

If you’re up for a brand new challenge, there’s no shortage of remote UX roles. Keep an eye on job boards such as We Work RemotelyNo Desk or Remotive for latest postings. Of course, working in a company that already has a remote-first attitude will make settling into a remote UX role that much easier.

To sum up

  • Don’t be afraid! Ask questions, voice your concerns, keep people in the loop.
  • Remote work doesn’t translate to work from home — get out to shared workspaces, cafes, libraries or parks.
  • Collaboration can still happen in a digital space.
  • Being a remote UX Designer isn’t a backwards step in your career. It’s often an advancement.

I hope this information will help you in your decision to take the plunge into a remote UX Designer role or even help you adjust to remote working. Have any further questions? Leave a response below! If you want to learn a bit more about remote working in general, I’d recommend you check out this article on remote working tips and tricks from our team of Tyklings.