The way we work, shop, meet and collaborate has changed forever.
We now possess the technology that makes the need to meet face to face in the traditional business sense a thing of the past.
Equipped with text messaging, instant messaging, video messaging, and a host of web based tools for project and client management and collaboration, it’s possible to create an efficient business run from just about anywhere you can obtain an Internet connection.
However, all this efficiency comes with a price. Without frequent, genuine and rich interaction with the people in your life working towards shared outcomes something very meaningful is lost.
Hugs and handshakes are what make us human and they are in many ways a part of what makes doing what we do worth it.
While working and selling globally, assembling staff from around the nation and meeting clients via video have become the new reality in our technology flattened world, there are a handful of practices that I believe can help return or maintain a more human element to the virtual workspace.
The human mindset
First and foremost as we interact across time and space we have to remember that these are human beings we are interacting with. I know that sounds almost absurd, but there’s something sterilizing about the video monitor that somehow makes us more like machines – machines with bad manners.
The human mindset in the virtual world calls for an obsession with basic politeness. Be early, be thankful, be kind, be caring. Take the time to ask how someone is doing, what they are excited about or what they need help them with.
Bring this mentality to your technology and you’ll restore some of the humanness that it robs.
The human routine
The use of virtual staff, assistants and providers makes it easy to conduct business much like it’s one big transaction.
In the virtual world it’s essential that you not lose all sense of human business routine. When you work with virtual assistants, graphic designers, copywriters, take the time to set up a meeting just to get to know them. Some of this could be in the form of an interview, but the more you know a person the more you’ll understand their unique abilities and that’s how you create a great working relationship and that’s how everyone wins.
Create regularly scheduled meetings just to check in and use these to keep focused on managing the relationship as well as the work.
The human meeting
I wrote a post last week about how to start meetings on a high note. It got so much response it served to highlight the lack of humanness in our meetings, both in person and online.
In the post I suggested that every meeting start by asking participants to share one thing professionally and personally they were very excited about.
This human touch is so profoundly missing from flat screen interaction that simply starting a virtual meeting in this fashion can return a sense of joy to the otherwise dreaded meeting.
The human touch
You probably saw this last one coming, but in the virtual cocoon we live and work, it’s become essential that you force yourself out into real life.
You may have every last client work detail hammered out via your online portal, so take three or four clients to lunch, just to get to know them better.
Go to three or four conferences a year, just to meet some of the people that comment on your blog posts.
Reach out to people whose work you admire and see if they can grab coffee the next time you’re in their town.
Everything I’ve mentioned in this post is both obvious and natural, but somehow the lack of real space makes it less so. You can fuse what’s great about technology with what’s great about human inspiration and bring it back into the workplace if you simply choose to remain human.