People with office hours or students from Ozgur's Distributed Engineering Design course will especially appreciate this.

Collocation Blindness in Partially Distributed Groups: Is There A Downside To Being Collocated?

Basically, remote teamwork functions in favor of specialists with rare skills. Because of the distance, communications with them are perceived to be of higher value and allows the specialists to be more pragmatic about distributing their time instead of simply spending it mostly on the folks nearby. This is contrary to conventional wisdom which says that in-person contact is almost always the best way to go.

What does this mean?

Distance allows us to step back and see the larger picture of things. We're more removed from a situation, but the tradeoff is that we're better able to gauge its priority and act accordingly. This is why IT helpdesks tell people to email in tickets instead of always stopping by; it's why people say "email me if you have any questions," why customer service representatives are now available via chat (you can handle multiple chats more easily than multiple phone conversations), why some professors hold office hours over AIM, and why I get a lot done when I shut my room door or go home for vacation.

It's one reason working from home is so popular. I get to decide what's important and what I'll do next - not a supervisor breathing down my neck or customers clamoring that their problem needs to be fixed now, now, now. This has a particularly big effect on suckers like me who can't resist a request for help; those desperate puppy-eyes make you feel so darn guilty that you push back important things to solve someone else's small but immediate problem. (The warm fuzzy feeling is worth it, though.)

This also means we have to trust specialists to prioritize things the right way. If I don't think the medic will prioritize my grandpa's stroke over Johnny's bleeding arm, I'm going to make a scene until he gets the attention I think he deserves. It also means we have to agree that the way they're triaging is appropriate, since we certainly can't all go first. If Johnny thinks his gash is horrendously vital (maybe he's a hemophiliac) he'll start shouting as well.

Finally, the specialist needs to prioritize reponsibly and in a rational manner instead of abusing their magical long-distance triage powers. Even if our hypothetical medic is afraid of stitches, she needs to patch Johnny's arm within a reasonable amount of time even if it'd be "easier" to ignore his yells until he faints from loss of blood. Similarly, just because someone can't remind us at dinner to complete a task doesn't mean we have license to blow it off. (I acknowledge I slip up plenty on this last criteria, but I'm really trying to work on it...) If, on the other hand, Johnny's got a trivial paper cut and is screaming for a lollipop he shouldn't have before dinner, then the ability to ignore Johnny is very good.

Speaking of which... I'm slowly growing less and less behind in my pile of work. Two major tasks to complete before I'm 100% on-schedule for winter break again! (Ah, unscheduled family trips. I wish I could tell my parents to send me an iCal, but that would just make them confused or mad, depending on on whether they know what an iCal is or not.)