The Rise of the Remote Meeting (Preview)

How to More Than Survive in a Virtual Work World

Those of us who chose to work remotely before 2020, at a time when we could move freely between our home offices and our communities, did so with immense privilege. I am one of these people.

Illustration by Rachel Wui

By Ryann Hoffman, Founding Partner & Principal, Staircase Strategy

This past spring, a new work-from-home population erupted in the abrupt switch to virtual jobs and at-home families. Many newly remote cultures are a reactive attempt to slow the chaos and hurt of a pandemic for our most vulnerable, while the pain of chronic racial injustice flares. Prior to 2020, 1 in 50 Americans worked from home. The Economist reports that number is now 1 in 3. Our 2020 collective shift to working from home is not a straightforward experience of remote work.

Through exploring virtual communication to enhance workplace collaboration when it was an exciting choice, I learned there are well-founded cases to be made for in-person work between human beings. Touch, like a handshake, triggers endorphins. These endorphins make us feel connected to those we touch. Being physically near a person matches our heart rate to theirs and causes us to mirror their movement. These are two critical steps in achieving empathy. When we feel empathy for one another, we are more vulnerable. As vulnerability researcher Brené Brown has taught us, we then become more creative. If we trust and feel connected, we are able to incorporate new perspectives, and we can have constructive conflict. These are both necessary ingredients for solving complex problems with complex solutions. In short, successful in-person interactions fast-track the conditions for effective teamwork in a complicated world…

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From Design Museum Magazine Issue 016