Monday, March 5, 2007

Making the Most of Your On-Site Time

Even the most dedicated telecommuter must make occasional forays into the Real Office. Whether you go in once a week or once a quarter, making the most of your face time is critical. I'm starting my third big trip from the Land of Enchantment to the Land of Pleasant Living, and I've planned things a little differently this time from the other two.

I'm sure you're dying to know what I've learned about kicking off the slippers and slipping on the pumps.

Use your time to confront difficult issues and people: If there are projects that are proving hard to advance from afar, take the opportunity to get all the players in as few rooms as possible -- preferably just one! Often you can reinvigorate things with a little in-person pep rally, and get a better read on what the interpersonal dynamics might could be that are impeding your progress. Likewise, neutralize negative people by judiciously applied lunch meetings. If you know there are some squeaky wheels in your office, apply the grease while you're close at hand.

Find a "hook" for your trip: I try to schedule trips around significant events where I will maximize my visibility and the impact of me actually being there. It might be an all-staff meeting with my colleagues from around the division, a retreat, the kick-off of a new project, or the wrap of a project. Large gatherings, especially those that include people you don't see that often online, really reinforce the idea that you still actually work there. I then build meetings, conduct training classes, and do the other stuff that needs doing in person around that major "hook".

Make the most of your time: Schedule your time carefully -- it doesn't really help you increase your visibility to sit in the server room and work on servers (although that's important too). Get out and about and hit the conference rooms hard.

Don't schedule your time too tightly: Running from meeting to meeting will make you feel busy and important, but it's a good idea to leave yourself a little wiggle-room too, especially toward the end of your trip. Having some open space in your schedule will allow you to add some follow-up meetings if needed, and to spend a little time reading email, returning calls, and kind of acting like you are working, not just gadflying from pillar to post.

Never underestimate the power of happy hour: What's the one thing that's hard to do from your home office? Socialize with co-workers. Take every opportunity to socialize with your colleagues to remind people not only that you work there, but that they like you. It's an invaluable opportunity to catch up on the gossip -- and gossip flows a little more freely when everyone is all likkered up.

That's not unethical, right?

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