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Nicole Martin
New Jersey
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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Importance of Being (Physically) Present

As more companies big and small leverage technology to conduct everyday business, the definition of “office” is constantly changing.  E-mail and cell phones make an office mobile, and internal instant messenger programs along with video phone programs like Skype make communication near instantaneous.  Some companies even allow for flexible work arrangements where employees can vary their hours or decide to work from the local coffee shop.  Some people can go weeks, even months, without ever interacting with their colleagues face-to-face.

Do you conduct most, if not all, of your business remotely?  If so, you may want to consider being more present in your work life.  Literally.  Being present can refer to the mental aspect, and you can find a guest post that I wrote on this topic over at Ms. Career Girl.  But I think there’s a lot to be said about physically showing up on a regular basis. 

Personally, I am very comfortable with working solely through e-mails and conference calls.  To me, this is often times more efficient and convenient.  When the Day Job recently gave me a new client group in an out-of-state office, I was explicitly told to set up day trips to sit with those teams.  To be honest, my first reaction was annoyance… why should I drive 2 hours (each way) to hang around just in case someone has a question?  To me, questions can just as easily be answered by e-mail or over the phone.  Once I was there though, it became clear that to my client group, my visits were really important.  They loved to stop by with the little questions that they would normally e-mail me.  And the managers kept saying how great it was for me to be there, that everyone really appreciated it.  I really felt the love!

I also saw that these in-person interactions allowed me to read body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice.  Being able to observe all of these details together made my conversations so much more robust than if they were by e-mail or even phone.  Plus, face-to-face interactions very quickly created a good rapport between my client group and I… something that I was not able to do up until then.

You may not have a client group to visit like me, but you can make an effort to attend meetings in person or go out of your way to meet up with a colleague.  If you are not on the agenda before this meeting, get yourself on there.  Even 5 minutes for a quick introduction and update on your work will make a big impact. 

I’m curious now, what is your preferred style?  Virtual meetings or in-person?

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