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Keeping it Real in a Remote World

September 1, 2011

I’ve got a confession to make.  And this may be somewhat shocking in today’s go-go plugged-in remote-is-in work world – I’ve never been a remote worker. Nope.  All my working days I’ve donned office attire (suits to jeans) and made the morning commute to an office.  I’ve always enjoyed the luxury of someone else making my morning coffee and having a vending machine or two nearby.  Oh sure, I’ve had jobs where I could work from home as needed and I’ve also had jobs where I traveled and set up shop in warehouses, conference rooms and hotel lobbies, but I’ve never been one of those far-flung field people lacking face-to-face contact with coworkers.

I’ve worked on teams where about 90% of my team members were remote – including my boss.  So while I sat in my plush utilitarian digs at the corporate office they were scattered about the country and we would get together, in person, usually twice per year.  I found it interesting to reflect on this yesterday when I read this post over at TLNT by Patty Azzarello -“How to Stay Front, Center, and Visible — Even When You Work Remotely.”

It reminded me of a simple yet awesome thing we did as a team (and this was quite a few years ago).  At one point, a team member was getting ready to welcome her first baby and we decided to host a virtual baby shower for her.  So all the members of the team purchased baby shower gifts, took a picture of the item they had purchased, wrapped the gift, affixed a number on the outside of the box (pre-assigned numbers) and mailed the boxes from all over the country to the expectant mother’s home with stern warnings on the boxes “Do Not Open until you receive further instructions.”  We then sent our pictures to one of our co-workers and she assembled a slide show: picture of wrapped gifts (in sequential order, thus the numbers) and then a follow-up slide of the contents of each gift box.

The big day came and we had a scheduled go-to-meeting/conference call.  But instead of the normal weekly HR and business metrics and plans we usually covered – we held our virtual baby shower.  The mother-to-be was instructed that NOW she could open the gifts, in order, and as she did the slide would show of the before (wrapped gift) and the after (opened gift).  We laughed, we oohed and ahhed.  We ate snacks.  The only thing missing was we didn’t have to play any silly baby shower games.

Which is good.  I would have been real uncomfortable had we played “Guess Mom’s Tummy Size.”

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