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The human connection in a digital office...

I realize our upper management has some concerns about people long term working remote. We’ve done it for a year and in the cases I have seen, we are more efficient and effective. As a whole we are doing a great job working together… But are we missing that ‘human connection’ with our co-workers and dare I say friends in many cases? Six months ago I would have said “No, we’re doing good”. But a month ago, my answer would be different. What’s changed? For me a new position, but that’s not it. Working with a team of people of whom I’ve never met in person… Nope not it either. Ask me today and my answer is back to “No, we’re doing ok.” The change… Web cams. When I was a Specialist, people called me with questions and requests for help. I always answered with my camera on, so they could see me. I found most of them turned their cameras on, which sometimes lead to a fun moment discussing hair styles or facial hair growth. But there was a connection AND more importantly, I feel, they could see I was engaged with them.

Last November, I began working out of class and when I started lots of people had their cameras on… but lately I really took notice, in a two week period I attended just short of 50 meetings / discussions. And I could count the number of times, on one hand, people had web cams turned on. And what I also realized, it was always the same people. I then stopped and thought, when did I stop running my camera all the time and more importantly why?

I reached out to my team and asked them their thoughts on turning on their cameras for meeting. All but one answered “yes we should and it’s a good idea.” I just asked the question. Next meeting I attended half the people in that meeting had them on. They were my staff that I’d simply asked a question. Next more people in that meeting turned theirs on and the first 6 minutes of that meeting was people talking about seeing each other’s faces… The human connection.

The next two points just hammered it home. Point number one, I’m getting married in May of 2022 (just send gift cards or cash) and I wanted my wedding party to meet and what not. So I setup a Google Duo call… two of them are in Lansing, Michigan. One is in South Carolina and one is in Florida. I talk to them all on a regular basis but not all together… It hit me in the middle of that call, the ones I felt closest too, were the ones I used FaceTime to talk to, not just phone calls. It was seeing their faces and their expressions.

Point number two… Came from a video I was watching on YouTube. Two managers from Microsoft doing an interview called Ask Me Anything. You only have to watch the first three minutes. I was floored. How had I missed the importance of something so simple. Heck since the pandemic started I’ve purchased two new webcams. The second one is a Microsoft LifeCam HD-3000 and it was around $30 on Amazon. It’ll take less than 5 minutes (three of them will be actually watching the video) and search YouTube for “13-08-2020 Online Meetup: AMA with Donovan Brown and Abel Wang from Microsoft” and just watch the first three minutes to hear it from other people, outside our SOM ecosystem.

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