We are continuously 'connected' in every aspect of our lives. It is becoming increasingly important to find ways to unplug from our many devices and get back to focusing on building our relationships. In business, that means your relationships with your employees, your peers, your boss, your vendors, and your clients.
Technology allows companies to have employees work remotely - a great benefit to the employee in terms of flexibility, and to the company in terms of increased productivity. However, if employees are constantly called off hours and weekends for work issues they can burn out quickly. This leads to everything from decreased productivity, to health issues, to the employee leaving the company. Keep it balanced and focus on the relationship with your employee - only reach out off hours when it's truly an emergency, and be sure they are taking vacation time shortly after a stretch of long days working on a project or to meet a deadline. Make sure they are taking time to unplug. You will build trust and loyalty - valuable commodities in any business.
I am a huge believer in unplugging during meetings (the only exception being to pull up documentation or take notes on a laptop). So often people will sit in their offices or at their desk and dial-in to a meeting with people sitting in the same location. Get up. Go sit in the conference room with your colleagues without your electronics and have a discussion. For your remote employees, invite them to the office for key meetings as much as you can. At a minimum, have a corporate wide event once a year to get people unplugged and in the same room. I have seen year-long issues solved in days when people sit down and focus without the distractions of computers and phones...because talking to someone when you are sitting across a table from them is much different than emails or even phone calls. Building your internal relationships makes your company stronger.
If you are only communicating with your clients through emails and phone calls, you are doing yourself an injustice. This is one of the most important places for companies to unplug...get in front of your clients as much as your budget will allow. The most profitable clients are usually the ones that have a personal relationship with their sales and/or account management team. Take them to dinner, golf, a hockey game - these events help you build a personal relationship with your client team, and many a deal has been finalized on the golf course or over a steak dinner.
Within 2 days, I heard a story on NPR about a family who instituted a no-electronics-rule every weekend, and a story on The Today Show about The Samaritans greeting commuters on the T in Boston to start their day off with a smile. We all have a need for human connection - in our personal lives and our professional lives. Remember to unplug once in a while and keep your business relationships strong.
Debbie Millin is President of UpperLevel Solutions - a Boston-based firm offering part-time and interim Chief Operating Officer services, operational assessments and executive project leadership.