Remote Workers, Video Meetings and Culture

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I am headed to Fort Worth for meetings, this week. I know. You are jealous. You want three jobs like me.

I do enjoy my random portfolio-driven career. I am excited to see my colleagues. And my company has a daily meeting at 11:45 AM CT where we talk about the business of doing business.

It’s kind of cool. They call it ‘the huddle‘ because the dudes who run my company are into sports, I guess.

Anyway, the huddle is an important part of our company’s culture. We celebrate milestones and success. We discuss our clients. We talk about areas of improvement. It is the one moment where everybody gets on the same page.

But I don’t normally participate in that meeting (unless I am in Fort Worth) because I am 1,200 miles away. I am also an hour ahead of everyone and the huddle happens during my lunch. And calling into a live meeting really sucks. There is background noise. There are muffled jokes. There are body postures that I can’t see on the phone. We tried video conferencing. It works, yes, but it’s just a hazy shade of gray for me and I still can’t make out the subtleties and nuances.

Also, fuck that. I work from home for a reason. I’ll huddle up when I am in town.

I’m a leader, though. People notice when I am not there. So I have had to explain (about 1,200 times) that the huddle doesn’t scale on phone or video.

And it turns out that I am right and not crazy.

Although the daily huddle is an essential part of our culture, research shows that remote workers don’t benefit from telephone or video conferencing. When it comes to creating a positive culture of inclusion and innovation, nothing beats real-life meetings and interactions in the office.

Technology is not the solution to better communication. Video conferencing does not help office morale. Being in the office and creating a more collaborative workspace creates better communication and improves morale.

So what helps remote employees stay connected to coworkers and feel included in the organization? Frequent office visits. That’s about it. I know, I know. You can blame research scientists and our brains for jacking up your travel budgets.

I realize that it is my job to stay connected to my colleagues and peers. I take that responsibility seriously. And my style is simple. I generally browbeat my boss into telling me what’s happening at our firm. When he misses something, I lecture him. Then he lectures me and tells me to join the huddle. Then I tell him to get his bitch ass back in the kitchen and make me some pie. Then I call Lizzie to fill me in.

Fun! Hooray! Working from home is a dream!

Take it from someone who is living the dream — don’t think you can shrink your travel budget and unify your team and create a culture of inclusion through technology and video conferencing. Science tells us that nothing replaces face-to-face interactions in the work environment. And it’s your job as a remote employee to push for those meetings as often as your schedule allows.

Take that part of your job seriously, people. It is important.

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