Good article in today's Boston Globe by Maggie Jackson. In my own work environment, the team I work with is located over several sites almost all out of state. My direct manager's primary office is at another location within MA. Hence the timeliness of the theme that Maggie writes.
"We think virtual work is new, but early telegraph and telephone users stumbled upon the same glitches and etiquette quandaries that plague us today. The difference is that they were tiptoeing into this new world. We increasingly rely on cyber-relations, which often are a pale substitute for face-to-face contact. We should be wary. Just how faceless do we want our bonds with colleagues, family, and friends to be?"
I think time is the one critical factor we need to deal with. If we let work demands control our time in blocks of one hour meetings, we loose. If we take control of the clock and manage time to allow for effective communication amongst the distant parties, we can more efficiently work together.
"Misunderstandings abound in the virtual world. E-mail and instant messages lack voice, tone, and body language, and employees "tend to play it fast and loose with language," says Nancy Flynn, head of the ePolicy Institute, a training and consulting firm."
It takes more time to have an effective conversation when the parties are remote. The voice, tone and body language need to get translated into the words (i.e. properly framed) so that the message won't be taken out of context and misused or misunderstood.
IBM is taking a thoughtful approach to restoring lost cohesiveness. Its year-old campaign, "Making IBM Feel Small Again," aims to promote face-to-face contacts. For instance, traveling employees can tap "IBM Club" websites to learn about local company social events in their destination city. "We want to have the right balance" says spokesman Jim Sinocchi. To strike that balance, it's crucial to revisit our age-old assumptions that technology always represents a step forward. There is a limit to what we can expect from faceless relations, as Ella Thayer knew so well a century before e-mail and instant messaging.
Yes, I agree that the old assumptions need to be looked at. As Tom Peters would say: Re-imagine!
I would start with taking more time in my remote communication transactions. Where would you start?