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December 15, 2006

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David P.

As a remote member of an otherwise office-bound company, I agree that face time and handshake time is crucial, especially when trying to establish and maintain trust relationships with people that I did not know before I started telecommuting full-time. Whenever I have to travel to the company offices, I always make sure to be there at least one more day that I need, and that day is not scheduled for anything. That way I'm free to just bump into people: it's amazing how much you can get done in five minutes of face to face after five weeks of emails and voice conferences.

Video conferencing is second-best to facetime, but it's helped me a lot. I find that part of what helps build that trust is the ability to break out of a more "formal" relationship that seems to be the only one that you can establish over the phone (in the absence of any other type of contact). It takes facetime to really see someone else as a human being and be able to relate to them other than at that strictly formal level.

But I have also found a flip side: a bad video connection can have the direct opposite effect. If you spend a lot of time trying to set up a video conference and are unsuccessful, or have poor image/audio quality, the frustration that people feel at being unable to communicate actually transfers itself to the participants at the other end of the link (regardless of whether the problem is their fault). This is purely anecdotal and based on my experience, but I find that I can garner more positive outcomes and trust from the participants from meetings where the technology worked unobtrusively. Glitches almost always translate into delays in getting agreement, far beyond what would be expected from just the delays caused by the communications breakdown.

Very interested in hearing more about the "Working Anywhere" project.

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