This Remote Design Company Uses Slack Bots To Recreate The Human Experience
For some companies, punching the clock is considered a relic of the past, and these businesses get that goaloriented work and results are far more important than the number of hours worked. So they allow their people to work whenever and wherever they feel the most productive.
Technology is the single greatest enabler of the location-independent working life as it is the foundation for processes and tools that help with remote collaboration. It allows companies to craft a culture where people work when they feel the most energized and creative, where going into an office is completely optional.
And then there are those companies that have taken it one step further by eliminating the need for an office altogether. Hanno, a product design
team spread across Europe and Asia, grew into a fully-distributed team as it started out with the building blocks for remote work.
Started with one co-founder in England and the other in Russia, Hanno scaled up as a remote company organically by bringing on board UX designers that were all comfortable with asynchronous work. While there wasn’t the initial plan to create a remote company, as the co-founders had been collaborating remotely for two years, there was never really a need to have an office.
Productivity is a clear priority for all businesses, but should it trump the remote worker’s need for human interaction? After all, two of the biggest problems cited by remote workers is that they often feel isolated, or have a lack of trust for their colleagues. This is because it’s simply difficult to trust people that you don’t have personal relationships with.
“When you’re working remotely, it’s easy to forget that people aren’t just there to execute tasks. That they’re people with lives, with ups and downs, and they’re just human beings. So I think it’s really important to recreate that human aspect in our team,” said Laïla von Alvensleben, a UX designer with Hanno.
Von Alvensleben is really passionate about the future of work, and even wrote her master’s thesis on how companies can apply design thinking to remote collaboration.
In order to “humanize” their remote teammates, Hanno has created a Slack bot called Oskar that persistently prompts people to share how they feel twice a day. Every week, Oskar graphs responses into a public mood map so the entire team can gauge the team’s well-being as a whole.
“At the end of the week, we get a mood summary or mood digest and have a visual representation, like a graph, to see people’s moods going up and down. It’s great to see the team’s mood as a whole. I think all of this is helpful to make the team more human, more relatable,” she said.
The interesting thing about Hanno’s Oskar, that von Alvensleben points out, is that people are more likely to be honest about their feeling when prompted by a robot, than if they were asked by a colleague. Turns out, Hanno relies on a computer to help its remote workers relate better to each other, which is emblematic of our conflicted relationship with technology.
“A lot of problems that remote teams have is isolation. It’s great that being remote allows you the flexibility to work from wherever and whenever you want. But the other side of the coin is that you’re completely on your own, whether you’re working from home or at a coworking space,” she said.
Addressing the issue with trust, von Alvensleben offers a workaround which is to over communicate. While in-person connections can rely on nonverbal cues, it is essential to provide more color and context when it comes to remote collaboration.
“You have to be really transparent, otherwise, you will have a lack of trust. A lack of trust is the biggest obstacle for a successful remote team. So if you can have tools and processes set up to help build that trust, to show that you’re committed and the results and outcomes of your work, it then becomes a habit,” she said.
Hanno’s story can serve to debunk the myths surrounding the future of work that other businesses considering running fully-remote teams should take note of. While tech tools and processes can boost productivity and allow for asynchronous collaboration, it’s also important to leverage the same technology to create a relatable and human working experience for all remote workers.