It's such a simple question. Does "where" matter anymore?

In some cases it doesn't. For months now I've been amazed by Bradley's ability to "live out of a bag" at work and still be very much in contact and productive. While he's rarely at his desk, through the magic of wireless networking, a cell phone, laptop, and Treo, he's in touch and able to work from the cafeteria, home, the Berkeley office, Hong Kong, or nearly anywhere.

I've noticed Chad doing this more and more as well. He'll often gather up his stuff and say something like "I'll be living out of my bag for the rest of the day."

I've made an effort to work remotely (from home or the Berkeley office) one day a week, but it's still challenging. Conference calls and meetings tend to be the sticking points. It's rarely the technology that gets in the way. Instead it's the human factors.

When we interviewed Andrei Broder (the interview will be posted next week, I hope) he talked about this too. He noted that at IBM they made conference calls completely virtual. In no case would you have 5 people in a conference room and 2 calling in remotely. That's because the 5 who are face to face forget that they can't have 2 conversations going on at once, can't rely on hand gestures and whiteboard drawings, etc.

I've noticed that when we have our weekly team meetings, Bradley often speaks directly into the speaker phone so that our London-based coworkers get a clear shot at hearing him. But most folks at Yahoo don't grok that yet. It's quite frustrating to be one of the few people "calling in" to a room full of people. You're generally a second class citizen.

Until we solve that problem, location will still matter.

Posted by jzawodn at February 26, 2006 07:30 AM

Reader Comments
# Pat said:
on February 26, 2006 08:29 AM
# soxiam said:

I think being able to float around the company all day is a definite skillset. Not everyone can do it and do it well. There are many managers whose job description should clearly say "spend all day going from one meeting to another". I do think there's a big difference between "getting work done" vs. "getting meetings done" though. And the level of productivity is determined by how effectively they can manage their desk chores when they're not on their desks.

on February 26, 2006 08:41 AM
# Charles said:

Chiat-Day ad agency tried an experiment in "virtual office" layout, everyone had a locker to store their laptop and files, but no designated office space. It is still a notorious failure.

on February 26, 2006 09:32 AM
# jr said:

Remote conferencing requires several items, only a few of which have been addressed. (See idea factory for one of my bigger issues)

One of the key items to successful remote conferencing, however, is evening the playing field. In other words, don't make it 5 against 2, have everyone either phone in or meet face to face. If folks want to have side conversations, have them run IM or IRC. This GREATLY reduces lost conversations or the feelings of second class citizens.

Now... if only someone would come up with a free, shared, huge virtual whiteboard...

on February 26, 2006 09:50 AM
# Jeremy Zawodny said:

Charles, I hadn't seen that. Thanks.

on February 26, 2006 01:03 PM
# Dan Isaacs said:

"Now... if only someone would come up with a free, shared, huge virtual whiteboard..."

..that Dan could use while driving and eating.

on February 26, 2006 03:58 PM
# WebMetricsGuru said:

I agree, Conference calls at IBM are virtual. I think every company has their own style. 40 percent of IBM now works remotely last I heard.

on February 26, 2006 05:20 PM
# Sean O'Donnell said:

Aside from project-related meetings, and training new staff or helping interview candidates, I really see no purpose to suffer in an office all day, when I can work perfectly fine from home (or anywhere).

I find myself being FAR more productive in my own 'space', especially when I work at home.

When I work from home (or out of the office), I feel as if I have to prove that I can be accountable for my time, which results in much more productivity, rather than me sitting in my (semi)cubicle with all the distractions and redundancies that make work monotonously un-fullfilling.

on February 26, 2006 09:52 PM
# Sean O'Donnell said:

hmm, that, or maybe I really do need to find a new job! =p

on February 26, 2006 09:54 PM
# Travis said:

Without going into details, the technology failures are still almost laughably horrid -- esp. for those of us who think Windows/Mac/Linux/(and dare-I-say?)AIX should all be on equal footing. And some are pseudo-tech related, such as not being able--complicated workarounds aside--to share a nice PDF presentation with colleagues because fonts won't be embedded, which is much more a business-related absurdity that appears tech-related then a tech failure. Many tech failures are probably related to this -- e.g. lack of video-conference compatibility not just because of inability, but active unwillingness, to agree on a standard that everyone can implement.

on February 27, 2006 05:55 PM
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