Five Tips for Putting More than Geographical Distance between You and Your Colleagues
Smartphones, laptops, networks, and apps. These technical wizards offer all we need to conduct business in a virtual workspace. Why complicate the good ol’ nine-to-five (or ten-to-two) with unnecessary human connection? Here’s how to keep things simple and kill connection in your digital work world:
1. Tackle those pesky work conference calls while doing more important things like getting coffee or driving along a busy street with your window down. And don’t worry—we’ll hold while you talk to your dry cleaner.
Bonus: Do not mute your phone while on a call with colleagues, ever. Your cat meowing, the neighbor’s leaf blower, and the TV in the living room make for a lovely soundtrack. What’s most important is that you’re ready to get the first word in on a moment’s notice.
2. Take full advantage of colleagues who work from home and therefore never leave the office. Send an email at seven p.m., and expect to hear back by the morning. Call to discuss a project just before they slither into bed. Send a string of texts before the sun rises, and ask for a prompt reply (Ping! Ping! Ping! Ping!). When they don’t respond, send another text: “Are you getting these?”
Bonus: Disregard time differences (it is eight a.m. where you live), and ignore boundaries when your colleagues take a day off, call in sick, or go on staycation.
3. When you get on a conference call, only greet and interact with the colleagues you like. Ignore the others. (Since you can’t see them, they’re not really there.)
Bonus: Try this in a face-to-face meeting and report back. We’d love to know how it goes.
4. Read between the digital lines and make (lots of) assumptions. Decipher the meaning of that sentence Krista typed using ALL CAPS. Assess why Jerry used so many periods and not one exclamation point. (Who does that?! Someone who wants to fire you, that’s who.) Determine Stephanie’s nefarious reasons for removing Scott from the “To:” line when she replied to “All.” Make up stories to explain your assumptions, and share them with others.
Bonus: Do not let Krista, Jerry, and Stephanie get the best of you. Hit “Caps Lock” and respond, champ! Type your own harsh periods in bold, genius! Add Scott’s email address back to that “To:” line, detective! Then, sit back, scowl, and silently stew from the comfort of your own living room. (Take that, suckers.)
5. Wear your bunny slippers and jam-jams to work and bring a lackadaisical attitude to match. You’ve got this, cool guy. Lean back in your chair. Put your feet up on the desk. Scroll through Instagram and Zappos while you’re on that call, and see what’s new. This is the laid-back life of the digital world, baby! Enjoy.
Bonus: Do not waste your hard-earned money on up-to-date technology. Use the phone that keeps cutting out and the crackly earbuds. Refuse to touch that digital platform with a ten-foot pole. Ignore your colleagues’ requests that you use Canvas or Blackboard or Google Docs. Because, hey—you signed up to work from home for one reason: F.R.E.E.D.O.M.
Or maybe you don’t want to be a connection killer. At Round Table Company, the majority of our business—our intimate, deep-diving, highly personal work—is conducted digitally. Our virtual office spans the globe and forces us to share, interpret, and comprehend dynamic information via multiple time zones, black and white emails, and sound waves. To nourish ourselves as creative collaborators, we have to keep our connections alive.
Though, let’s be real: @#$% happens and sometimes kills connection when we’re organizing a project among, sometimes, a dozen or more collaborators. After all, behind the technology that facilitates our work are humans—people with feelings and personalities. Therefore, tending to our human environment is our responsibility, and we imagine it is yours too.
Here’s what we’ve learned about how to keep human connection alive through digital networks and fiber optics:
- Communicate directly and honestly. Resolve perceived or actual misunderstandings with real talk.
- Respect your colleagues’ time and presence. Be prepared and present.
- Take time to connect with your colleagues personally. If you do not like someone, get over it and peek over your metaphorical cubical to say hello.
- Make direct requests if there is something you need or they can do to make working remotely more successful. Do not assume that they’re aware the problem exists.
- Do not gossip. Gossip kills connection everywhere, really. Do not say something behind someone’s back that diminishes how others see them. If you have a problem, tell that person and work through it with them.
Low tech? Maybe, but these real-people solutions let you reach beyond the cloud and the latest software download to work human-to-human.