I Was A Remote Stalker


 width=Actually, I still am a remote stalker–I have to be.  In fact, if you’re a full-time remote worker, you probably are, too.  I’ve always got an eye on everyone’s status buttons in gTalk and VSee so I can nab people while they’re green, or else I’m putting on my elephant skin so I can pester them again and again until they get the idea that I desperately need to talk.

It’s hardest when I’m first getting to know my coworkers.  They don’t know me, and I don’t know them, so it kind of feels like I’m hitting on them when I’m trying to get hold of them to talk about something, especially if the question isn’t all that necessary, or if I’m secretly trying to squeeze in a little real-time social interaction.  But even after you get to know people, it still gets old having to ask over and over again “is now a good time to talk?”

I don’t blame anyone.  It’s just an unfortunate truth that people are easy to ignore or to forget if they aren’t standing right there in front of you.  (You know that’s why bad students like to sit in the back of the class…until the teacher moves them right by her desk.)  These days it’s even harder to get noticed with our multi-tasking work environment.  Marks and González’s studies of the workplace found that it’s normal for someone to be interrupted 2 to 3 times in the process of completing a single work task and that on average, people are only work continuously on any given task for about 10 minutes.  O’Conaill and Frolich reported that people were interrupted approximately 4 times every hour and that the vast majority of interruptions were from face-to-face interactions.  I should say that it’s really not so bad getting hold of one person, but multiply that by 2 or 3 people, and you can see how you might spend all day chasing people down.

It’s worse if you’re in a different time zone, because the window of opportunity to get hold of someone in real-time is that much smaller, unless you’re willing to work anytime and all the time.  Having set schedules isn’t necessarily the solution either.  I mean when you need someone, you need someone.  That’s the whole point of VSee:  having a tool that allows you to easily get hold of someone so you can resolve an issue spur of the moment.  It just doesn’t solve the problem of people getting distracted by other things throughout the day.

Even at arranged large group meetings, where you’ve purposefully set aside time to talk together, it’s easy to get ignored when you’re just a small square on the screen in the midst of a group of people talking face-to-face.  It makes me better appreciate the value of embodied social proxies discussed by Milton, where at least some part of me can make a small physically impression.

In the meanwhile, I’ll just have to get over being shy about interrupting people for the occasional frivolous reason and to be persistent when I’m hunting people down.

More Articles

Gloria Mark’s research on fragmented work

Steven Baker “Encouraging Involvement In Distributed Teams”

photo courtesy of ohhhbetty

Comments ( 1 )
  • anne
    Mark says:

    Yes, I completely agree with this.
    Although technology can get your work done, it still can’t completely replace the experience of working together 🙂

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