It may seem odd that I am recommending meeting in person on a blog devoted to working virtually. Yet, some physical, face-to-face interaction is very beneficial, and sometimes necessary.
Recently, I had the opportunity to travel to the other side of the globe to spend a couple of weeks with team members I had only known by the sound of their voice. Sure, the trip was a little expensive but it was more of an investment than a sunk cost and I expect it to payoff in the long run. It can be almost impossible to get to know team members from other cultures through conference calls or email. There’s nothing worse than hearing dead silence on a call for several seconds and then hear someone squeak “Okay, sure.” You know that they have no idea what you are trying to communicate.
In many cases the physical interaction is more helpful as a social interaction than as a specific work related activity. This social time will ultimately increase the comfort level people have with each other, create stronger cohesive bonds, and make future virtual interactions much smoother. It can help cement the bond between virtual workers. When an email is sent to someone across the country or across the globe, the sender will see more than an email address. The sender will feel more connected to the person or team.
I understand that leaders don’t always have the budget or resources to do this. I would also argue that frequent physical, face-to-face, interaction is not required. In today’s tough economic times, it’s common to see organizations slash travel expenses and budgets. Leaders should keep this in mind during the budget process and look for creative solutions to get their team together at the same time and same place at least once a year. Search for opportunities arises such as a conference or annual meeting to plan a real, live, face-to-face meeting. This will also provide face time which is still one of the most understated but most recognized variables in the promotion process. Attaching a living, breathing face (not a web photo) with a voice and email address goes a long way into embedding an impression.