Degrees of Separation

Photo of man in hallway

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, I made my living in the behavioral sciences. My workday revolved around seeing people face-to-face. While it was quite exhausting for an introvert to spend most of a workweek conversing with others, I found that I knew the team with which I worked every day. We knew what was happening in each others’ lives, we celebrated career milestones with each other, we had each others’ phone numbers. In some cases, I worked in high-stress situations keeping very odd hours, and I knew what it was to see my colleagues more than I saw most of my other friends. We were, after all, the only ones who could really appreciate what the other was experiencing.

Now that I make my living in the digital realm, I mostly work for myself. I do work with clients from multiple states, most of whom I haven’t seen in person in over a year. In one case, I did a project for a client that I had never met in person. I’m currently doing work with a team that is spread out all over the world, from both coasts of the U.S. to Europe. As everyone in the world of digital content has the freedom to work from wherever they choose, I regularly have “meetings” with people that I have never met face-to-face. I speak with them every week, and know their personalities at some level, but I cannot say that I really know any of my colleagues on this current project.

That’s not to say that I never keep office hours in this line of work. I actually do on many projects, and, on the occasions that I have, I feel that I’ve gotten to be very well acquainted with my co-workers. On each of those occasions, I’ve kept in contact with those co-workers and carried at least some of those professional relationships forward.

This isn’t so much an issue of effectiveness. I’m an introvert, so I’m perfectly content to be alone with my work for long periods of time. I’ve found, though, that I feel more satisfied with the projects that I’ve completed alongside people with whom I’m connected, colleagues that I’ve seen in person and whose interests and personalities I’ve gotten to know.

It’s interesting how the human factor to doing our work is only effective up to a certain level of abstraction. Beyond that, while not, at least in my experience, a point of diminished returns, there’s certainly a point at which the work becomes more robotic, less…meaningful…in nature.

And we all want to do work with meaning, to not be subjected to drudgery.

Ultimately, we’re doing our work for people, for each other. I think that our work is done the best when keeping that in mind.

Photo Attribution: mark sebastian under Creative Commons

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