4 The 10-Second Commute What do I need to know? Information doesn’t always arrive at your door- step, neatly packaged. Scanning the work environment involves having a wide lens on both your work and the work of others—each more challeng- ing when remote. But doing so allows us to see where the holes are and seek out what’s needed to stitch it together. With whom do I need to connect, and how? Online interactions change the way we behave. Making connections and successfully maintaining them in the virtual space are skills in and of themselves. These are not easy tasks, especially when the technology is a whole new ball game. Tech is not just a filter between our colleagues and us, it’s also a presence that leans on us in sometimes unpredictable ways (think about how much your screen size can change the way you focus on your work, or the way artificial intelligence can navigate our decisions). Having to adapt to new technology continuously, and sometimes rapidly, makes the adjustment to virtual work all the more difficult. Yes, we need to learn the specific tools necessary to connect and compute, while also appreciating the psychological toll that technology may take. Nearly every angle of our world has changed with the advent of wide- spread virtual work. This book is organized around three main areas: virtual presence context and the role of technology. Below is a high-level overview to offer a brief roadmap of what’s to come. Each delves into the minutiae of the virtual experience from the individual sitting in front of a computer to the changes in our whole society, to better understand how we got where we are and why the difficulties that we face have come to pass. Section One: Virtual Presence As humans, we are quirky. We respond intuitively, often without knowing what triggers our moods and decisions. The psychology of our reactions to technology is no exception. We respond differently to buttons on the screen that look “clickable,” we have emotional reactions to the use of different col- ors or seeing representations of human faces (even caricatures), and we engage with people differently depending on the device we’re holding. Trust and cooperation immediately drop without live, in-person, face-to- face ­ interaction—multiple studies have made this clear.10 But what about when we interact with our colleagues virtually? The face-to-face option is removed, and we are left with text, audio, and video as the choices. Early work on media richness theory suggested that tools with more channels for com- municating would be more effective and closer to the natural actions of face- to-face. And indeed, some studies have found improvements in interactions, negotiations, and decisions when video is added.11 But other studies have failed to show videoconferencing’s distinct advantage over voice-only calls.12
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