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Miles Away But Still Connected
Holmes Report
Holmes Report
News and insights from the global PR industry

Miles Away But Still Connected

Holmes Report

[quote]Technology hasn’t only enabled me to telework; it’s also enabled me to live my personal life remotely.[/quote] By Dan Barnhardt Like so many, I’ve spent the last year worrying my company would follow Yahoo’s lead and put an end to telecommuting. I’d hate to see that happen. My job as Director of Global Public Relations at a software company requires a lot of writing, and though most days I go into the office, occasionally I work from home so I can write in a more quiet and comfortable environment. I’m much more productive when doing so. With email and video-conferencing replacing phone calls and meetings, technology has enabled people to do their jobs remotely. But are they really as productive? Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer is betting they aren’t, at least not at Yahoo. Mayer thinks the measurable cost-savings are being offset by productivity declines as telecommuting inhibits the natural collaboration that stems from co-workers being co-located. She believes that the office face-time is important and that’s how you get to bond with employees and foster innovative ideas. Time will tell if Mayer’s move pays off. [caption id="attachment_2096" align="alignright" width="150"]Dan Barnhardt Dan Barnhardt[/caption] Tonight, as I paused the TV to scan my Facebook news feed, I came to a realization about telecommuting. Technology hasn’t only enabled me to telework; it’s also enabled me to live my personal life remotely. A year and a half ago, my company, Infor, relocated our headquarters from Atlanta to New York City.  It’s a decision that makes me proud at a time when many ‘headquarters’ are being moved to Swiss PO boxes. While a majority of our employees were going to remain based in the Atlanta office, I was one of the few headed to our new HQ in the Big Apple. For eight years in Atlanta I had a neighbor downstairs named Diane, an attorney with a biting sense of humor and a ferocious enthusiasm for fitness. Though we weren’t close, we often bumped into each other and twice shared a bottle of wine while gossiping about the couple across the hall. Diane is just an acquaintance, but thanks to social media I know that tonight she ate baked salmon, quinoa salad and steamed asparagus – no hollandaise. I’ve never understood why people share such minutia; how could anyone possibly care what you ate for dinner? As it turns out, these seemingly useless factoids are having a major impact on my life. In Atlanta, I had a great relationship and a terrific core group of friends, and neither has changed since moving to New York. I visit frequently, and we travel together and communicate regularly via video, phone and text, so my relationships remain strong.  I also had a broad network of acquaintances, and realize how the status of my relationship with these people hasn’t changed either. Though I’m not visiting, traveling with, or even calling them, they still feel like a part of my everyday life. I’ve realized that in addition to mundane updates like Diane’s dinner, friends in Atlanta sharing details of their lives through Facebook with me has tricked me into thinking I still live there. It’s as if Atlanta is the office and I work remotely from New York – it’s teleliving. Since my needs for a social network are being met by people in Georgia, I haven’t really made any effort to build a network in New York. As much as I was dismayed by this, I was also impressed by Facebook’s ability to make me feel at home from 750 miles away. It provides me with a quick and simple way to collaborate with my network around common interests. If there were a tool that enabled similar meaningful and contextual interaction for the workplace, might it be the solution to Yahoo’s telecommuting dilemma? Interestingly, my company has developed such a platform for our customers, and Mayer might want to take note. Dan Barnhardt is director of global PR for Infor.
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