Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Consulting assignment life cycle 24: office space, telecommuting and teleconsulting – 2

Posted in career development, consulting, job search and career development by Timothy Platt on July 14, 2012

This is my twenty fourth installment on consulting and the consulting assignment life cycle (see my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 2, postings 225-246 for Parts 1-23.) I began a discussion of office space and related issues in Part 23 of this series, starting with a discussion of the consultant’s own business practice and where they manage and run it from. I then began a discussion of telecommuting and teleconsulting, and both within a consulting business, and when working with clients.

I pick up on that here, noting that working with a client means working with and within the context of their policies, practices and corporate culture. And it means working within the comfort zone of the manager you report to at your client’s business, and it means working with other stakeholders and in-house employees too. Some organizations allow and even actively support and promote telecommuting and other creative options for keeping their employees connected and productively contributing. What is allowed for and supported for in-house employees can be different than what is allowed for and supported for consultants, as consultants – even those on very long term assignments, are always outsiders in several respects. I have seen situations where consultants would be allowed to work from their own office space at least at times, where in-house employees would be expected to work entirely on-site at work. Know what is expected, wanted and preferred, and consider that part of the operating environment that you work in as a consultant. And work on-site or off, and face to face and via online connections accordingly, so as to satisfy your client’s needs and get the work done.

• Telecommuting and teleconsulting options can be a significant area of assignment negotiations, with for example certain days carved out for face to face meetings and work in-house, and others designated as telecommuting-optional or even expected.
• This should be settled upon early in the assignment, or even before it formally begins if possible, but circumstances can change, and sometimes just have to be accommodated. Northeast winter storms in the United States, with blizzards and the commuting challenges they create come to mind as a working example there. Even businesses that would not usually support telecommuting might be willing to do so and might even actively promote it when that becomes their best option for your being able to get your work done.
• So these issues need not be seen as being set in stone – and even with a more rigidly organized and run client business. Just know and understand where they might be willing to bend on issues of where and how you work, and when. And negotiate and follow through accordingly.
• The important point is that you not say you will follow one approach and then without warning or explanation do other things. Consistency and reliability are important, and both for working on the specific assignment and for developing and maintaining a positive reputation as to your skills and professionalism.

I find myself thinking of assignments I have worked on as I write this, and of consultant colleagues I have worked with. Sometimes these assignments have primarily required working at or at least primarily working with staff members at the client’s home office, and peripherally and largely via teleconsulting with others in more distant offices. I have, by contrast, certainly worked with consultants who seemed to virtually live in transit between out of state offices. They found themselves doing this because the nature of the work they did – direct hands-work setting up and configuring hardware that could not be done via online or other remote communications channels. Know if the assignments and types of assignments you take on carry with them minimum and perhaps even very large minimum percentages of time traveling – and either to remote offices, or simply from day to day commutes. Know what to expected, and for the issues I write of here, most of this should be predictable.

I am going to turn to the issues of client processes, systems and cultures in my next series installment, and as a foretaste of that make an observation I have found invaluable in my own career. Effective consultants are students of businesses and organizations and of how they do and do not work. I will discuss what that means and why it is so important next. Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings at my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 2. I have also posted extensively on jobs and careers-related topics in my first Guide directory page on Job Search and Career Development.

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