Last week I decided to drive for nearly 4 hours so that I could meet some of my team members in person. Now…I am a massive advocate of virtual working and I am really fortunate to work for a company that has amazing technology and the right culture to support virtual working. But I was still craving that connection that comes with meeting someone in person .
By chance, nearly all my current team members were going to be in the one location at the same time and it was too good an opportunity to miss out on a real team lunch. So I got up at the crack of dawn, jumped in the car and started driving.
I have to confess I kinda enjoyed this alone time in the car. Since I normally work at home, I don’t commute, I go straight from my role as mum to my role at work without a moments breath between them. My days are filled with to do lists and actions, I pretty much NEVER just sit listening to the radio. So this time went by quickly and smoothly. Ahhh… Unfortunately, I then hit the city and pretty much ground to a halt. Suddenly my blissful time in the car became frustrating and annoying, reminding me that virtual working has made it possible to avoid this on a daily basis.
When I finally arrived at the office, it was like a weird reunion. Here are the people that I work with every day, speak to every day and know their faces (from photos in the system and dodgy Google + “hangout” meetings and Skype)…yet at the same time, it is weird seeing them in the flesh, being able to lean over the desk and ask them something. It was lovely going out for lunch and having conversation about the weather and the clothes we were wearing, that idle chit chat that remote workers miss out on. I was quickly brought up to speed with the latest gossip (some good, some bad) and I had the opportunity to have a career 1:1 discussion with my boss…in a meeting room!
It was an exhausting day but as I climbed back into the car to make the long commute home, I felt both energised and excited. However, I reflected on it all on the way home (I had plenty of time, due to a breakdown causing an extra hour on my already long trek)
Whilst I was really glad that I was able to take this opportunity to connect on a different level, I also realised how strong our connection already was. Working remotely has allowed me to become uber productive, to avoid wasting time in the commute and also to be able to focus when I need to. And when I need to connect, when I need to feel like a team, the others are there…on the end of the line.
Of course, we have to work harder than others to create this, we have to make time in meetings to talk about the “mundane” stuff, like what we did at the weekend. We have “virtual coffee” meetings to catch up on gossip and we use all the online collaboration tools to make our projects run like clockwork. But ultimately, the modern workplace has really evolved, and it is possible to have human connections…remotely. It feels like just another reminder not to get too caught up with what has worked in the past and embrace a future which might mean doing things differently…not better, not worse, just different.