Chicago Tribune business columnist, Barbara Rose, had this piece yesterday, Face time can be tough to replace:
"Face time" takes on new importance when enterprises are global, employees are mobile, and workers can go months without meeting bosses or key colleagues in the same time zone.
There are cost and time savings to keeping people close to clients or their homes. But e-mail and instant messages, telephone calls and videoconferences are poor substitutes for the time-honored practice of monitoring one's career status by watching a boss' expression when you meet unexpectedly in an elevator.
Nothing works as well as first-hand observation when deciding when and how often to communicate.
The article is framed around an anecdote of a person who met one of her charges for the first time at her own going away party. And the article focuses on the employee-manager relationship.
"Face time" is a term that feels like it was drawn out of the 1990's - a time when many companies were flattening their hierarchies (once again), and people who worked together began to see less of each other. Getting a chance to see your boss, or some other important person, became a privilege, rather than part of standard business. Of course, with the boom of the internet and then the bubble burst in 2000, travel was restricted while virtual access increased. The reality of having your manager in another building changed to managers in other states or countries.
The importance of face time depends on the relationship, of course. If you are reporting to the absent boss, there is much that is lost, as this article discusses. But if you are on a team together, the issue of face time may not be nearly as critical. And communities of interest can thrive without ever creating opportunities to meet face-to-face.
A caveat: for teams and large groups of people, maybe it is important for some of them to be able to interact directly and spread the knowledge, culture, friendships back into the community?