The five of us are catching up with each other after the long holiday while we wait for our boss, who has just informed that he would be a little delayed. Huddled in the meeting room, we share with each other how we spent the long Christmas and New Year holidays.
In the two years, we have grown very fond of each other and the miles of distance between us didn’t matter anymore. We were perfectly at ease in our virtual meeting room smiling, nodding, laughing, and teasing each other through the square little window located in the corner of our laptop screens where we could clearly see each other. The week long break has surely been good to all of us. Everyone was bright and cheerful.
It was almost bedtime for me, while someone else had just started their day, again someone was having their usual shot of evening coffee, and someone had just woken up. Being from all four corners of the world, this wasn’t surprising. While I worked out of Bangalore, someone worked out of Paris, someone else worked out of Toronto, someone was from North Carolina, someone from Charlotte, and all of us envied the one who worked out of a picturesque island in the Pacific Ocean.
About 3 years back, I found myself in the middle of some churnings and reorgs in the company. As a result, all of a sudden I found myself in a team where I was the only one working out of India, rather Asia. Though working with people across the globe wasn’t new to me but being part of a completely virtual team certainly was.
After the initial teething problems, I discovered that working virtually with globally dispersed colleagues has more advantages than disadvantages. The greatest advantage for me is that it gives me the flexibility of work timings. I can effectively blend in my personal life with work life. I have the flexibility to go into office or work out of home.
Also, interacting with people from other countries gives me the unique opportunity to get insights into their cultures, something that always fascinates me.
The greatest challenge of virtual work for me however, is being disciplined and drawing the line between work life and personal life.
Technology enables us to work flawlessly despite being scattered all around the world. I find working around different time zones highly effective. My worktime starts while it ends in another part of the world. This provides me a specific window of focused time to complete my work.
All of us have adjusted our work routines in order to ensure at least 2-3 hours of being together. All our meetings and dependencies need to happen in that window.
At the same time, we are cautious not to fall into the trap of all work and no play. Though we do assemble once a year at some place to meet in person, for other times, we devise unique and innovative ways of having fun times together as a team.
Once we decided that everybody is going to cook cauliflower in their own way. We then presented our recipes through pictures and stories during our team meeting. Another time, we were all given some amount of money to spend in whichever way we want during the weekend. We then presented what we did to the rest of the team. Somebody went for a spa, someone took their friends out for dinner, someone surprised his wife with a gift, and so on.
Sometimes, we also plan virtual coffee breaks with one another, where we share our work frustrations and even small things from our personal lives. My colleague from Paris shares my love for travel and on relatively lighter days our work meetings invariably start or end with discussing places of interest in our respective countries and even sharing google pictures and YouTube videos. All such things has served to bring us close to each other.
All said and done, I do miss having co-located work mates because technology cannot substitute the feeling of physical presence. However awesome technology may be, it cannot replicate the feeling of a warm hug or a gentle handshake. It cannot reproduce the camaraderie of sitting across a table and sharing a coffee or lunch together.
Luckily for me, there is another team in Bangalore office whose work is almost similar as mine. I go to office at intervals just to be with them and also attend most of their team events. This alleviates the need of co-located work mates for now. And, I get to enjoy best of the two worlds – virtual and real – as long as it lasts.
Post in response to Day-4 prompt'Four Corners of the World' for Bar-A-Thon: The Blogging Marathon