Office workers keep photos of their families on their desks, to remind them of their children and significant other while they are away from home. I work from home. So what do I keep on my desk? A “group” photo of my dispersed team. Here’s how I made sure every team member has a photograph of the team, no matter where they live.
The Need for Team Visibility
At least one study has shown that simply seeing a coworker every day can significantly improve the impression team members have of that person. Frequent video conferencing is one way distributed teams overcome the lack of “face time”. Another method is to make use of photos. I’ve heard of one team that places photos of the remote attendees near the speakerphone whenever they have a conference call.
In thinking about how to increase cohesiveness in my present dispersed team I decided I definitely wanted to incorporate photography. I declared one day Photo Day, and established the rules as follows:
Photo Day Rules
- Have someone take your photo today.
- The photo must be fresh: not your stock Twitter photo, but a photo that shows what you look like today.
- No self-portraits, unless there is no one else around to take your photo. Hand your camera to a passing stranger, tourist-style, if you need to. We want to see how you look when you are interacting with another human, not mugging for a webcam.
- It must clearly show your face, and only your face. No group photos, sunglasses, or sock puppets.
- Prefer natural light, and use the highest resolution you can.
- Send the photo to the Photo Day organizer
- Optionally, change your photo on your team communication tools – e.g. Skype, Yammer,etc. – to use the new photos.
My team had a lot of fun with this. A group of team members who all work together at one location went outside at the same time and took each other’s pictures.
From Many, One
Once I had copies of all the photos (it took almost a week to get some of the stragglers), I spent a few hours cropping and arranging them on a black 8″x10″background in the GIMP (an Open Source Photoshop-like tool). I did the group photo in a “collage” style, with photos overlapping here and there. Once I was happy with the layout, I collected everyone’s address and sent the photo to Shutterfly for printing.
Yes, I could have printed the photos on my HP inkjet printer. But I wanted a photo people could feel good about framing and putting on their desks. So I went with a professional photo-printing company.
Of course, unlike seeing your coworker in in living color across the room,, photos are static and quickly become part of the scenery. I plan on repeating Photo Day every 2-3 months, to keep the portraits fresh (and to keep up with any changes in the team).
Photo Day met with a positive response in my team, and personally I’ve really liked being able to look up and remind myself that I work with people who have faces, not just names in a Campfire room. It increases my “passive face time” with the team, and that helps me relate to them better.
Would your team benefit from a Photo Day? Do you have other strategies for establishing passive face time?
Title photo by Sherman Tan