Consulting Is a Contact Sport

144235017The lure of the remote workplace is understandable.  But just because you can work remotely doesn’t mean you should.

Modern technology makes it easy for workers to get things done away from the office.  Smart devices, video conferencing and other collaborative tools enable staff to be productive when working from virtually anywhere.  Today’s independent consultants are often faced with the question of where they should ideally do their work.  The short answer:  the client site.

Effective consulting engagements are, first and foremost, relationships, and the quality of the personal connection has a direct effect on the quality of the project output.  When onsite, a consultant can observe and leverage the workplace dynamics more effectively. Face time is essential to capturing the complete texture of the work environment, including the all-important non-verbal cues. You want to be seen as a real person with a real role on the team.

For a number of reasons, being onsite everyday may not be feasible.  However, being physically present is especially important in the following circumstances:

When a fast turnaround is required. Fast turnaround typically requires more face time to shorten the development cycle.

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When working in small teams. Smaller groups tend to be more relationship-driven and, therefore, benefit from face time.

During periods of high collaboration. High levels of collaboration generally benefit from more face time because of the potential for ad hoc meetings.

When there are a large number of tasks involved. If the project requires the management of many tasks (or people), face time can help the consultant more effectively “ride herd.”

Bottom line: Ultimately, it’s people interacting with people that gets the job done and independent consultants should work at the client site whenever possible.  Good things happen when people are present — physically and intellectually.

MORE: Telecommuting and the office of the future

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