Four tips to maximize the effectiveness of your time in the office

Make Working from Home Work for You
Make Working from Home Work for You

When most people think about remote workers, they think of freelancers, consultants or programmers – lonely solopreneurs hacking away at a keyboard in a coffee shop or home office, holding positions that require little communication with others. In reality, a growing number of the swelling telecommuting ranks (more than one out of five Americans, by some estimates), are people just like me:  remote managers facing a critical need to communicate with teams but with very limited in-office time.

For nearly two years, I’ve been a remote manager living in metro Atlanta. My job as CMO for turnstone, an office furniture brand focused on the needs of small business, requires me to manage a team of marketers mostly based in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Traveling north about one week per month, I’ve learned just how valuable that face time is with my team. Here are some tips on how remote managers can get the most from these visits:

Focus on the team when in the office. That salesperson who keeps calling you wanting to set-up a virtual demo? Not this week. When you’re in the office, postpone or delay any other interactions that aren’t face-to-face. Not only will this allow you to focus on the team, but you may find it offers a nice break from the usual string of conference calls you’re used to. Have down time between meetings? I camp out in a lounge area in our space so people feel comfortable approaching me informally.

Not everything needs a full hour. Does your company culture assume that most meetings require a full 60 minutes? As a remote manager, you may not have that time luxury. Plant yourself in one place for a chunk of time (my favorite is our beautiful Work Café) and schedule a series of back-to-back, half-hour meetings there. It will allow you to meet with more people, maximizing those office hours.

You’re on a business trip, not them. Speaking of office hours, it’s tempting to schedule early morning breakfast meetings or even dinners and happy hours. Remember that your colleagues have the same family and social obligations as you do at home, so be respectful of their time. Use that downtime back at the hotel to catch up on emails and even enjoy some local sights in your adopted second hometown. When returning to our headquarters for trips, I often go for an evening run and check out a new local restaurant for dinner.

Meet someone new. As a remote worker, those serendipitous encounters with co-workers aren’t going to happen on the way to your kitchen. Meeting new people at work isn’t as easy for us, so use your time at the office to meet with as diverse a group as you can. I often pick one or two people outside of my team and make time to meet for coffee or lunch. These types of connections will pay off the next time you’re on a conference call with a roomful of people, as they’ll remember those personal interactions. It’s a great way to ensure that while you may be out of sight, you’re not out of mind.