Presence is the state of being synchronously available for collaborative activities that need to happen in real time. In , this means being physically in an office. In distributed teams, presence usually means being available to meet with other people rather than doing individual work.
cautionOne of the most harmful behaviors that can surface in a distributed team is the constant expectation of presence. If employees are expected to always be on email or in a group chat to stay informed, it impacts their ability to do focused work, which is a required component of knowledge work and can be in direct opposition to virtual presence. If someone can’t ignore their email for two hours because their company has a culture of being always on email, their ability to do their work may suffer, which impacts the team’s collective productivity.
Since knowledge workers oscillate between highly collaborative modes and highly focused modes depending on the task at hand, balance becomes key. Distributed teams that want to be effective across time and space will seek this balance and communicate in ways that neither require constant attention, nor create frequent interruptions for employees.
As a general rule, nobody at Basecamp really knows where anyone else is at any given moment. Are they working? Dunno. Are they taking a break? Dunno. Are they at lunch? Dunno. Are they picking up their kid from school? Dunno. Don’t care. The vast majority of the time, it just doesn’t matter. What matters is letting people design their own schedule around when they can do their best work.Jason Fried, co-founder and CEO, Basecamp*