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If one person is remote, everyone should be remote

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I went into the office the other day. Before joining a meeting, I realised someone else who was involved was also in the office, so we decided to grab a meeting room and dial in together. It was a bit of a bit of a disaster.

Following the meeting, Josie, who had dialled in from her home office, mentioned:

It’s actually really hard sometimes to hear what’s going on when some people are in a meeting room! Voices echo or seem muffled, each person can’t mute to cough or shuffle or whatever, and it’s so tempting to make a quick, quiet comment to the person next to you in the room, rather than saying it out loud on the call. I found it even harder to know when to speak. Sorry if I spoke over anyone!

The worst part of it is that I didn’t even notice!

When Josie mentioned the issues, I was immediately reminded of a blog post from Trello a number of years ago, where they highlight some of the problems with mixing in-person and remote before saying:

If everyone sits at their desk on an individual video call screen, the playing field is equal. Everyone’s faces are easily distinguishable, it’s easy to know whose turn it is to talk, and it simply puts everyone’s input on equal footing.

The working landscape has changed in the last couple of years since the onset of the pandemic, and in many cases irreversibly:

  • I work for an international company, and teams and support networks have sprung up across multiple offices, spanning multiple cities, countries, and continents
  • Hiring nets have been cast far and wide, so new team members are remote by default, often not located near an office at all
  • Even colleagues who live in the same area as one another are choosing to work from home most days

Me? I don’t want to exclude anyone from a conversation so the days of in-real-life meetings are over. There may be the odd time I happen to be in my closest office at the same time as some others in a meeting, but if even one person is dialling in, we all will be!

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