I am very very fortunate that I have the ability to run my business from a remote office. The advantages are numerous, but the biggest plus, in my opinion, is that I can work from pretty much anywhere, as long as there’s a decent Internet connection and cell service. I took full advantage of this fact in late October, when we rented a place on New Smyrna Beach for a week and I worked from under our very own tiki hut! Definitely an ideal situation that I never take for granted.
There are drawbacks, though. Because my work is based online, most of my interactions are either over the phone or via email, and so I miss out on a lot face-to-face contact. In the majority of cases, this isn’t an issue – and come HIMSS conference time, I make it a point to “remeet” my colleagues and clients in person, but last week an in-person meeting reminded me why a mouse will never replace a good old-fashioned handshake.
After working on a project for a couple of months with a team based in Texas whom I had never met in person, we decided it would be worthwhile to schedule an in-person meeting to have the opportunity to brainstorm ideas face-to-face and get to know each other as real people, rather than just a voice on the phone. Last Thursday, I had the pleasure of meeting Letha and Emily, my two Texan teammates. In addition to enjoying a fun lunch and traveling to a new part of the state, here were the three main takeaways from the trip:
- We were able to put faces with the voices. The benefits here go beyond, “Oh that’s what you look like!” Without the ability to see facial expressions, important information can be lost or even misinterpreted in a phone or email conversation. Much can be learned from a grin, a wink, or a pat on the back, just as important information is gleaned from a raised eyebrow, a lackluster handshake, or a disapproving shake of the head (fortunately none of these negative things occurred in Texas last week)! Now when I email Letha or Emily or speak with them on the phone, it’s much more familiar because we’ve become real to each other.
- Sharing personal space provides clues to common interests or circumstances. Emily was kind enough to pick me up from the airport in her SUV, which contained two car seats. I suspect that, as time went on, Emily and I would have eventually inquired about each others’ personal lives over the phone, but the ride in Emily’s car gave us a jump start on the opportunity to share personal information, which, in my opinion, strengthens all relationships – business and personal. Once in Letha’s office, I had the chance to see photographs of her kids, as well, and was able to learn a bit about who they were and what they were interested in. I, of course, was happy to share a bit about my kids, too, because that’s what moms do. Discovering the “mom bond” between us provides an additional connection and a deeper understanding of each other. (It doesn’t have to be car seats and kids – the clues to a common bond could be a set of golf clubs thrown in the back of the car, a painting from a particular artist hanging on the office wall, or a fraternity pin on the lapel). Again, the ability to learn more about each other in person turns us into three-dimensional colleagues – it makes us real.
- There’s no substitute for experiencing the corporate culture first-hand. Although I had heard that the culture of our client’s company was fast-paced, dynamic, and team-centered, I was not prepared for the exceptional camaraderie and the upbeat vibe displayed by the employees I had the chance to meet. Since our project involves building a team of top-notch professionals and I am often asked what I know about the corporate culture, I can now give first-hand information with confidence – it’s now become real.
I realize it’s not always possible to meet all business colleagues in person, but if you will be engaged in a long project as a remote professional, I highly recommend working an onsite visit into the initial proposal or plan. And if you happen to be (or know) a RN RHIT, RHIA, or CCS who is looking for an amazing career opportunity, here’s the job description – Letha, Emily, and I will be excited to “meet” you!