In a previous post, we were discussing keeping your office door open whenever possible. But it's also important to consider the office arrangement as well.
Way back in the 1980’s, I took a tip from Daniel J. Travanti’s character on the television show Hill Street Blues. Captain Francis Furillo made it a habit to never have his desk between himself and his visitors. He would stand up and walk around his desk to have the impending discussion face to face. I loved that approach and took serious note of it.
With today’s prefabricated office furniture and its required layouts, sometimes you won’t be able to position things exactly to your liking. But if you have some flexibility there, try to set things up so your desk isn’t positioned as a barrier to your folks. If you can have a separate table and chairs, you’re good to go. If you have no other seating available, and you can’t avoid the desk-in-the-middle setup, do your best to remove its barrier potential.
When you have visitors, slide your chair over to the end of the desk, so you’re talking more around the desk than over it. Folks who visit with you will feel an increased connection with you. There’s a side benefit to repositioning yourself this way: you probably won’t end up anywhere near your computer. Nothing quite says, “Everything else I’ve got to do is more important than anything you’ve got to tell me” than continuing to work and check your email (or play with your cell phone!) while pretending to entertain your visitor.
Even glancing over to the screen is enough to send a clear message — you’d rather watch those stock quotes streaming by than focus on your conversation. Reduce the temptation further and hit the screen lock or screensaver key when you’re about to start. When you scoot yourself away from the computer screen, you’re telling your guest that you’re really working with him right now.