Seeing Coworkers In Person Again

In March I started a new job at Microsoft and in May I started managing a team. I have been pleasantly surprised at how happy and productive I have been working entirely remotely for the past ~17 months, but I was eager to meet people in person. I live in the SF Bay Area, but my manager and almost all of the people I manage are in the Seattle area, so a few weeks ago I travelled to meet them.

I worked from my team’s office area for a few days. Despite it being almost completely empty, I did bump into one of my team members and we went out to lunch together and had a great time. Besides that serendipitous encounter, I arranged a meeting with my manager in a park, a meeting with a peer in a different park, and a cruise on lakes Union and Washington for my team.

cruising with my team

It seems likely to me that even after COVID-19 is a distant memory, a lot of work will be done by geographically distributed teams. I believe wise companies will take some of the money they save on office real estate and spend it instead on paying for team members to regularly get together in person. In my experience, in-person gatherings catalyze emotional bonds that can persist for a long time and help make remote interactions more pleasant and productive. I first noticed this years ago back when I still worked in an office every day, but I was working closely with people who sat in an office in a different continent. During my first business trip to visit them I felt very guilty for wasting the company’s money. In terms of concrete business goals, I didn’t do much on that trip to justify the travel bill. But over time I found that it was easier for me to think of those coworkers as real people who I cared about because we had hung out together and gotten to know each other, and that helped me work with them for years afterwards.

By the way, if you’d like to join my team and meet me in person once in a while, I’m hiring! Apply here or send me an email or LinkedIn message. The job listing says the job is only available in specific locations, but if those don’t work for you, I can be flexible for the right candidate.