The Benefits of Office FaceTime

The American workplace is experiencing an evolution. As far back as we can remember, more and more employers have been encouraging some kind of a flexible work arrangement where employees can work remotely either part- or full-time. With technological innovations supporting this movement and a widespread keenness toward cost efficiencies, it makes sense for many businesses to encourage this trend and it makes sense that many employees are rejoicing at having fewer hours a week commuting, more time to themselves and their loved ones, and lower dry cleaning bills (let’s be real).  With the evolution of virtual meetings, collaboration software and hyper-connectivity, the old model of being in the office and interacting with your boss and colleagues seems obsolete. Well, I’m here to argue that -- if you pay attention only to the buzz -- a complete disconnect from human connection in your professional life is more harmful than you might think. Herewith are 4 arguments in support of being in the office (at least part of the time):

  1. Better Communication
    You’ve no doubt heard of Dr. Albert Mehrabian whose studies on nonverbal communication found that 55% of communication is conducted via nonverbal cues (facial expressions, gestures, posture, etc.). How telling is it that only 7% of our message is conveyed through words and 38% through certain vocal elements! Lack of physically being present in front of peers, customers and/or managers handicaps us severely -- to the tune of 55%. Even the best Skype or virtual meeting connection cannot effectively convey the non-verbal parts of our communication. Furthermore, the more reliant we are on technology (email, instant messages, text), the more atrophied our communicative muscles become. The less confident we are when actually put in charge of presenting something in person.
  2. More Human
    When interacting with or delivering feedback to colleagues, words and tone stand the risk of being severely misconstrued thereby rendering the effort pointless. It is far better to make it a point to deliver constructive criticism and even praise in person where it has a tendency of “sticking”. Connections are forged both more quickly and more powerfully in person than otherwise, and messages are absorbed more efficiently and accurately.  This applies to interactions with colleagues and with business partners, including clients.  Electronic communication has a tendency of losing tone, gist and the emotions behind the message and can lead to a completely different message being received than the one that was sent. (In many states it’s illegal for employers to dismiss employees via electronic or telephonic communication for this very reason; they are required to deliver the bad news in person.  No, I’m not encouraging you to show up to the office to increase your chances of getting canned…!)
  3. Your Personality
    Physical presence in the office allows you the opportunity to let your personality shine and let others see you in a more defined way than someone with a particular email writing style. It allows you to bond with others on a more human level and smooth out any awkward rough edges that become prominent in cyber exchanges. Moreover, it also allows you to see others in a way that you may not have pictured and expand your sense of relatedness to them. Basic human interaction goes a long way in establishing more accurate reality to perception lines.
  4. Camaraderie
    An integrated working environment where employees regularly see each other puts the camaraderie back into the company culture. Happy hours, casual Fridays, pizza lunches and even mere chit chat at the water cooler or coffee machine can lead to more open lines of communication and improved morale.

Human beings are hardwired to be social animals. Staying in our cocoons and communicating from behind a computer puts us at a positions of disadvantage by not tapping into our most innate ability to communicate non-verbally. 

Here are 5 tips for maximizing the efficacy of time you spend at the office:

  1. Conduct regular face to face check-ins with team members
  2. Make it a point to attend monthly/quarterly team meetings in person
  3. Gather teams for off-site activities, happy hour, team building events at least annually
  4. Deliver staff and peer reviews in person for effective delivery of feedback
  5. Create a checklist of goals to accomplish when in the office that would be otherwise difficult to accomplish while working remotely

Quality face time in the office can lead to a more integrated team that communicates and interacts well. The far-reaching benefits help both the company and you, the professional, as you continue to refine yourself and advance yourself along your chosen career path and benefit from powerful communication and relationships on the way.