For many of us, working internationally means that we put a lot of energy into "virtual" presence with colleagues in multiple time zones. We don't have a choice. These days, many would argue that EVERYONE is working virtually, even when their colleagues are only a few steps away in a conference room or cubicle.
Yahoo's CEO, Marissa Mayer, recently made a surprising move when she asked all of Yahoo's telecommuters to begin working at Yahoo facilities instead of working from home. My first reaction was surprise - because Yahoo's business is virtual. However, I think Mayer has acknowledged a very important fact. If you want people to work together and get things done, you need to be sure that everyone is paying attention.
Many of us have experienced the frustration when “telecommuting team members” seem to drift – to be “partially engaged” when the team needs them to be “all in”. How many times has an idea drifted away because the conversation was delayed by a “busy signal”? How many conference calls have drifted into mediocrity because one or more of the participants disengaged (because it’s so easy when nobody has to make eye contact)?
There is no "one size fits all" answer to the question, but I applaud Marissa Mayer for taking a bold step. It looks like she is trying to get everyone at Yahoo to consistently pay attention to the right things.
What do you think? Can we consistently, virtually recreate “chemistry” that happens in a room, or the “serendipity” that happens when colleagues can quickly connect around an idea? How do we keep the virtual team engaged? How do we make sure that the team is paying attention to the right things at the right time?