The traditional refrain of ‘you had to be there’ is thrown out quite often to impart the idea that ‘being there’ is essential to get the true impact of the story. Subtle nuance, implied head nods, semi-masked grimaces, political blow-back. it was all there for the naked eye to see and contemplate. Often what is not said is the true heart of communication in most companies.
And that is an epic fail.
Communication is communicating. Getting something across clearly, cleanly and understood.
1. the act or process of communicating; fact of being communicated.2. the imparting or interchange of thoughts, opinions, or information by speech, writing, or signs.3. something imparted, interchanged, or transmitted.
There are a lot of business people who believe that most communication happens in unspoken forms, body language etc. And that to really get those one needs to be sitting across from the person in the interminable meeting while little to nothing gets solved. Meetings can absolutely rock. Meetings can also absolutely suck your soul.
Typically in a job/consulting/work situation you can either:
- Be in the office all day
- Or work remotely (partial or fully remote)
Regarding actual day-to-day work location there are typically two camps in business:
- You must be in your desk all day
- You can do your work from wherever
- The 3rd is my goal: no need to actually work more than 1-2 hours a day, here is your $10k this week
Having done both several times over the last year I have found that both have benefits and neither is the always right answer.
The pitched benefits of the “be at your desk in the office all day” camp are usually things like: in case we have a random, unplanned meeting or other quick chat, I can tell that you are working, I can quickly grab you for a conversation, you can easily show me on-screen work, I just like it that way.
The benefits pitched by the “Work where you want, just get your work done and rock it, use tools to make it seamless” camp are usually: Who cares where you sit, get your stuff done; everything you do is online and digital so why do I need to walk over and stare at your screen?; without being limited by geography we can get the best people for each role and almost always they can afford to work for less.
In a sort of ideological standoff, both camps are correct. I could easily argue both sides at most any given time. Culture and “teamliness” are über critical to success. But neither is inherent in location, they are just easier to build (and destroy) when everyone is in the same room. I am usually in favor of teams being in the same office for the quick interchange and ideas etc that can spring up. But of course the drawback of all being in the same office is that it is loud and distracting. I find if I really need to think clearly and write a lot I stay at home where it’s quiet and focused.
My discussion today is more about raising the question of ‘does location matter as much as it used to?’ Especially in digital integrated marketing where everything is digital, online and collaborative we seem to have moved past the need to all be sitting around the communal simulated fire screen. A big part of this has been a plethora of tools that have sprung up like daisies to enable this distributed team model. Today there are tons of successful companies who have NO OFFICES and only distributed teams. They are lean, fierce, fast-moving and profitable. They have of course no building leases, few fixed costs and they can afford to hire the best of the best regardless of where those people are living. Companies like Buffer, WordPress and many more exemplify this.
So what are some of the tools that make location a non issue and enable kick but collaboration and communication? here is a short list of the ones I dig:
- Sprout Social – Allows social media management and team based communication easily and instantly and uniformly
- Asana – kick butt team focused project management app that makes staying on track almost easy
- Google Docs – why send word and excel docs back and forth and back and forth? Use google docs, edit in real-time online always
- Sqwiggle – wondering what your coworker is doing right now and want to have an instant real-time chat? yes please. Even better than being in the same office
- Pipedrive- a sales oriented CRM that is online and collaborative, simple and clean
- WordPress – easy to forget who killer a CMS this is, online editing, publish from anywhere, all good
- Skype – obviously you can do video calls but you can also do individual and group chat easily and securely.