As someone who spends a lot of my work day in front of the computer and on the phone (vs. in in-person meetings), I have been thinking about "what's the difference?" I have a conclusion: it's about the quantity of signals we're used to getting from one another...and about how we'll be receiving them.
In mostly in-person meetings and interactions in the hallways, elevators, and kitchens, we're accustomed to taking in signals from all of our senses. We get to hear if someone has a cold (can't tell this in email), we get to smell their perfume (doesn't it say a lot about a person?), we see the expressions on their face and all the non verbals. We also see what they are wearing, and that data helps us make assessments that they are "artsy," or "conservative," or maybe connected to someone who buys them lots of quirky ties?
In any case, this is data. This is the kind of data on which we build conversations...or at least "small talk." This same data doesn't come through email. It doesn't come through instant messenger, and it might not transmit a conference call.
In a surround-sound and blue ray world, we are worried that our human interactions are going from high def to...could it be...analog?
I can see why this is causing stress. But, the answers lie in the virtual world...We used to receive signals that provided insights into a colleague's personality or interests simply by sharing the same physical space. We can still access this information, but it requires research. We'll need to spend more time leveraging technology, such as IM and webcams. We'll also need to mine the internet. See who is on Yammer, who is blogging, what your colleagues say on LinkedIN. What they post on Facebook. It's all out there...we just need to adjust how we receive the signals.
Conversion Strategies For Moving To A Dispersed Work Environment
Past: Pictures on your desk to show your team that you love to ski, have a dog and two kids, and went to VA Tech
Future: Facebook posts and photos for work and personal friends
Past: Snazzy ties and crisply-ironed shirts with monogrammed cuff links; we know you are a snazzy dresser
Future: Don't worry. The webcam will pick up your sense of style
Past: The cup of tea you'd prepare in the kitchen at 4 PM got you over the afternoon slump and allowed for some quick networking with colleagues
Future: You can still have tea and coffee breaks with colleagues. Find them on IM and ask if they have a minute for a quick call. They will likely welcome the break