The distributed workforce has grown fast – really fast. In U.S. organizations, there are now only 7 desks for every 10 employees, and over half of companies have formal policies for mobile workstyles.
In the last 3 years, I’ve worked from Santa Barbara, DC and San Francisco. On any given day, half the people I work with don’t sit in the same building. We’re so distributed for good reasons: increased productivity, better work-life balance, greater mobile work options, etc. But through this process, we forgot that we, as human beings, need to interact at a more personal level. We’re social, which means we need to work with people more than we work with technology.
That first day working from home follows a common track for most. First, you wake up and have some coffee while reading the news. Maybe you walk the dog while thinking about how lucky you are to be enjoying your morning while avoiding the commute. The day starts productive, and you push through many items on your to-do list. But, three hours later you feel like Tom Hanks in Cast Away. The peaceful quiet turns into a mind-numbing silence. You clear out your inbox, and suddenly you realize you are still in pajama pants. You feel lonely.
What’s lost in the transition to remote work is this idea that we’re inherently social. We require human interaction to move things forward. That’s why teleworkers often report feelings of loneliness. Studies show 83 percent of human learning occurs visually (source), so face-to-face interaction is a requirement for business, not a nice-to-have.
My strong belief is that video conferencing bridges the gap between remote work and human connections. Video conferencing is not new; it’s been around since the ‘70s in a commercially available offering. But consumers are now ready for video, as we saw when Skype hit a monumental 27 million simultaneous sessions last year. Business communication must catch up with video adoption. Here’s my prediction: 2013 will be the year video tips for business use.
Photo credit: Asbestos Bill