WLP176: Virtual Distance

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Really connecting with our core consulting work at Virtual Not Distant, today is all about virtual teams – we talk about the idea of ‘virtual distance’, and how there are many ways that distance and closeness can be created.

Also coming soon, look out for Pilar’s book, Online Meetings that R.O.C.K. – expanded and advanced and taking longer than expected due to fantastic insightful feedback from beta readers, find out what changed about the ‘C’! It’s going to be worth the wait.


07.15 What do you mean by that? Virtual Distance, with Dr Karen Lojeski

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We really enjoyed this conversation with Karen Lojeski, founder and CEO of Virtual Distance International, and author of The New Rules of the Virtual Workplace.

Virtual Distance describes what gets lost, when the human is translated through a machine. Karen’s original research found out that this could be measured and understood – and that it definitely impacts on relationships and collaborations to a measurable extent.

But it is NOT dependent purely on physical distance – that is merely one dimension in a complex system, involving operational and affinity distance as well.  When virtual distance is high we damage innovation, trust and performance. And it doesn’t only apply at work…

After all these are human factors, the technology is much less important. As Karen explains, "We often mix up the notion of the computer as a tool with the computer as somehow being smarter than the person and it just couldn't be further from the truth." 

We are so much more complex and significant and interesting, the machines don’t come close.

Check out both of Karen’s inspiring books on virtual team leadership.


39.05 Recommended tools: Voicedream

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A little while ago in episode 173 we discussed the medical affliction we affectionately described as ‘homeworkers bum’, a syndrome exacerbated by work which involves lots of reading and research. 

It’s not easy to read whilst doing anything but sitting down, but Voicedream is an app which reads written text aloud. It’s not perfectly ‘human’ of course, but this is a technology which is rapidly evolving and will surely improve. But for now this is a nice app which can sync with Pocket (which we discussed in episode 172), so it helps you get through your reading queue more quickly, even when you’re out for a walk.


42.36 Oh No, my team’s gone remote! - an exercise in exploring virtual distance

Instead of our usual talking head format, Pilar gives us a little exercise to complete, to help us plan or reflect upon the virtual distances within our teams – and perhaps lead to improvements in how you work together.

Here’s the diagram you will need, to work through the exercise whilst thinking about YOUR team.  

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How do the different expectations and behaviours impact on your work, and how interdependent are your activities? You can score yourself on the many different dimensions of virtual distance, to see how you’re doing.

If you do this as individuals within a team, how do your ratings compare? How do you think they will evolve over time, if you are transitioning to new ways of working?

And can you see how little of the whole picture has to do with physical distance?

Remember to review, reflect and learn, from your exercise into virtual distance. Please let us know how it went for you, and make sure you’re subscribed for future episodes.


We’ll see you again in two weeks, and meanwhile we’d love to hear what you think of our content – get in touch, or tweet us @Virtualteamw0rk


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