The three kinds of distance in remote collaboration, and where to focus

Erica Dhawan and Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic have some good suggestions in their article How to Collaborate Effectively If Your Team Is Remote. I found this part particularly interesting:

First, consider that there are three kinds of distance in remote collaboration: physical (place and time), operational (team size, bandwidth and skill levels) and affinity (values, trust, and interdependency). The best way for managers to drive team performance is by focusing on reducing affinity distance. Try switching most remote communication to regular video calls, which are a much better vehicle for establishing rapport and creating empathy than either e-mails or voice calls. And design virtual team-building rituals that give people the opportunity to interact regularly and experience their collaboration skills in action.

Focusing on “affinity distance” rings true for me. You can survive a long time with physical and operational distance if your team trusts each other and share certain values.

At Wildbit we use Zoom for video calls because it’s the only video conferencing software we’ve been able to find that lets us see the whole team’s faces on the screen at the same time. It’s much better than using Google Hangouts or any of the other apps that prioritize only the person who’s speaking. There are lots of way to reduce “affinity distance”, but having everyone (whether they’re remote or in the office) take video calls from their desks — and looking each other in the eyes on those calls — has had a surprisingly large positive impact.