Working with Remote Instructional Designers

Many of us dream of working at home: sucking down coffee all day, sporting a baggy t-shirt and ponytail (or even Einstein hair). We can research, brainstorm detailed designs, and have our storyboard writing spurts without interruption.

However, for some instructional designers (IDs) who have worked for many years at an office, large or small, working at home can be a lonely place and takes some adjustment time. No more “war room” collaboration sessions. No more group lunches, water cooler gossip, or impromptu happy hours. It’s just you in your sweatpants, looking barely presentable for conversation with the mail carrier, the only in-person human interaction you might have all day.

Now my ponytail and I love working at home, but we have always been very independent workers.Leading a large remote team of instructional designers at SweetRush, I try to keep my team members engaged on a regular basis to avoid any sense of isolation.

As a manager, what can you do to keep your remote IDs connected and feeling like a team?

1. Take a regular temperature reading. Using a tool like Google Forms™, you can easily create a survey and have the results automatically populate a spreadsheet. You can inquire about workload, challenges, feedback on leadership, ideas for new tools, and so forth.

2. Use your “Spidey sense.” If you sense that someone is struggling, then he or she probably is. Reach out as soon as possible and offer to listen, lend support, and provide alternatives.

3. Have an open door. IDs may need to walk through project challenges or just discuss ideas to get focused or even get started. As managers, we don’t always have visibility into every project at all times. Let IDs know it’s better to ask questions than to proceed when there is doubt. As we all know, it’s better to react to potentially problematic situation sooner than later.

4. Have an open calendar. Alongside having an open door, make it easy for IDs to connect with you. Remember, they can no longer tell if your office light is on or your door is shut! Share your calendar and allow anyone on your team to setup time with you during designated periods. In Google Calendar™, you can adjust your settings so team members only see your time as busy or available and not all details.

5. Create easy-to-use online tools to support remote IDs. Google Sites™ allows you to store and organize templates and examples and create FAQs. And, of course, IDs really appreciate the time you take to create great training materials. Recording webinars, or creating video-based nano-learnings on new or challenging procedures are excellent tools for onboarding new IDs and leveraging your time. The key is to keep everything up-to-date and organized. Encourage your IDs to submit feedback on your tools so you know where improvements can be made.

6. Communicate regularly. Distribute a monthly newsletter of departmental happenings. Create a social media site for team members to post work-related resources and tidbits or even personal items of interest. Invite everyone to industry-related webinars or those hosted by other departments in the company. There are endless ways to encourage team engagement and make personal connections in today’s digital age.

If you have a fantastic idea for working with remote IDs, I would love to hear your ideas! Post a comment on this article or email me directly catherine(at)sweetrush(dot)com!

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