<img height="1" width="1" style="display:none" src="https://www.facebook.com/tr?id=1240251502728721&amp;ev=PageView&amp;noscript=1">

Aug 9, 2021 3:17:00 PM

Our best practices for remote work and returning to normal

Johanna Mähönen

Managing Consultant, Design

Join Columbia Road

cr-brand-photo-2020We’ve done it – lived through a global pandemic for the past 1.5 years. Like me, you must have found new routines to work, stay active, healthy and (hopefully) sane depending on the changing level of restrictions. It comes as no surprise that spontaneous interactions with colleagues have been hard to come by and information exchange has been mainly limited to messages and daily/weekly video calls.

Nevertheless, the idea of going back to work-life as we used to know it might feel distant, and there’s an active discussion about various hybrid models for work. Our designers got together to wrap up and reflect on the past year and share our strategies and ideas for the future. Here’s a collection of our favourite tips and tricks for remote work, as well as for returning back to the office as we start to shift towards a more open society again.

Tips and tricks for remote collaboration

Is remote work here to stay? Probably, as we’ve had our time to adapt by now and the future of work is ready to revolve more around the home office. Here are our favourite tips for improving collaboration in remote times.

Engagement is key in remote workshops

In the old times, declaring workshops as a laptop-free zone was a good way to nudge people to pay attention and help them resist the urge to reply to emails. Needless to say, that is not an option for remote workshops. One of the most terrifying things about workshopping online is the silence when you are trying to engage others in discussion. If videos are turned off there’s no way of knowing if your participants have been paying attention to your workshop or planning their post-covid getaways.

To encourage engagement in the workshop we have discovered that avoiding screen sharing and relying on real-time collaboration boards (such as Figma, Miro, Mural, etc) tend to help. When your participants need to actively follow the workshop board from their own laptops with the added bonus of you and the others seeing when someone’s cursor stops moving, it can create a positive pressure to stay focused.

Use music to replace a stopwatch

Another way of avoiding the deadly silence during workshops is to add music to the background, especially during individual exercises. Music can act as a replacement for a stopwatch indicating what time is reserved for individual work and for group conversations. On top of that, it can relax the atmosphere and in best cases boost the energy levels.

Use fun remote collaboration tools to elevate teamwork

Collaboration is key, especially if you are a designer but equally for many other roles. What is lacking in remote collaboration is the spontaneity and fun that comes more naturally with being present in the same room. During this spring we discovered FigJam which impressed our designers with its right balance between silly and useful. We had a great laugh on top of an insightful workshop by using FigJam’s stickers and emoji reaction, making FigJam a great choice for workshop facilitation.

Strategies for returning to the old normal

Let’s be hopeful for a moment. Maybe this is it – we’re done and get to return back to normal life after summer. Yay! But then you start thinking about your rush hour commute, giving up your lunchtime runs and meeting all those people while your small talk skills have withered to base level. Here’s a few tips from our designers to make your landing in office life slightly softer.

Agree on how often the whole team should be at the office

If getting back to the commute routine to your office or between multiple offices is a thing you haven’t missed, it could be the time to start discussing with your team about how the future of your work looks like.

If your teammates share similar feelings you could agree on the number of days that will remain remote for all and some on which you meet face to face. Maybe the first thing could be lunch or a walk together to break the ice.

Get started with face to face collaboration and see where it takes you

Lacking the motivation to leave the comforts of your home? Once you have the routine and remote work setup complete you might have gotten quite comfortable at home. The thing that will never be the same when working remotely is the casual information exchange that happens when you just share a desk with your teammate.

To motivate you to go to the office and enjoy the undeniable benefit of face to face collaboration, book some time with your closest colleagues to work together. Having an agenda is optional, you can just trust the magic of presence. This is also a great way to motivate your colleagues to visit the office every now and then.

Spare a moment to plan how to adjust your new routine to office days

What about all the good habits that you have finally perfected? These might include morning walks, healthy home-cooked lunches or quick workouts to break the day. It would be a shame to lose those when you return to the office. It’s a good time to remind yourself that they are all transferable to office days too. It might require some extra preparation, but once the habit is there it will be easier to bring it with you to new environments.


Regardless of what the future holds for our work, hopefully these tips will help prepare you for it. We have gone through a huge transition in our work routines and we might never return to the same ways as we once knew them. If you have any strategies planned or ideas for returning to offices or continuing working remotely, we would love to hear them! Share your tips in the comments down below!

Looking to get inspired in a new environment with great colleagues? Or maybe you’re just looking for that next career move? We Roadies are constantly looking for nice and skilled people to work with! If you’re a developer, designer or martech expert, and would like to work as a consultant and help clients to grow their digital business, go ahead and take a look at our open positions 👇

Join Columbia Road

Subscribe to our Newsletter

Stay up-to-date what’s going on in digital commerce and Columbia Road. We’ll email you once a month with news, interesting articles and studies from the industry and the crème de la crème of our blog.