Face time: “Unproductive time spent at the office meant to project the image that you’re a hardworking employee.”
My favorite story of a face time trick is the attorney who would come to his office each Saturday, drape his jacket over his chair, put a half-eaten sandwich on the desk… and leave to have some weekend fun. If coworkers happened to drop by the office to pick up a file, they’d figure he had just stepped out for a moment.
What a relief to leave the demands of face time behind when you ditch the office life to become a virtual worker. However, you still need to show that you’re working—and you need to keep yourself focused even though you could theoretically watch YouTube videos all day. If you’ve convinced a reluctant boss to allow you to telecommute, it’s all the more important to demonstrate productivity and dedication.
There is a web worker replacement for face time: workstreaming, the publishing of work-related activities and events to your remote colleagues, usually via RSS but sometimes in other formats and ways.
Workstreaming is the next generation of the 11 pm email you send to your team to show them that you’ve been working all evening. Workstreaming is related to lifestreaming, producing an RSS feed of all the bits and pieces of your online self in date-time order. But lifestreaming incorporates everything from the personal to the professional to the trivial, while workstreaming is only about showing what you’ve just accomplished, what you’re working on now, and what you’re planning to do in the future.
The benefits of workstreaming include satisfying your boss (or client) that you’re making regular progress towards shared goals, notifying team members of your status in case it affects their work, and even giving yourself a sense of accomplishment and progress. Because it’s oriented to what you’re producing and doing and not just about how much time you’re spending on it, workstreaming isn’t so burdensome and misguided as face time requirements. However, workstreaming could certainly be manipulated to give the illusion you’re working when you’re not.
There are a wide variety of tools that might be used for workstreaming, and which ones suit you and your team depend both on what kind of work you do and what tools your coworkers are using. It’s not effective to use an IRC channel if you’re the only one on the team who knows what IRC stands for, but it can be great for a techie crowd. Twitter creates a virtual shared office space that can reproduce the chatter and intimacy of a physical office while allowing team members to share what they’re working on and what they’ve completed. RSS feeds from blogs, message boards, photo sites, and project management apps could all provide useful workstreams—especially if these are aggregated for a whole team. Source code control systems like Subversion can output RSS feeds too so you can make team members aware of new features and bug fixes as they’re checked in.
Of course there’s always email, which has been used as a “look, I’m working!” and “look what I’ve done!” tool for years. Ambient video awareness, on the other hand, seems just a bit too much like face time to qualify as a workstreaming tool.
How do you communicate your productivity and work status to your colleagues?