ESC's 7 Steps to Conducting Virtual Office Hours
If you are working remotely having meaningful office hours can be hard. This is particularly challenging for organizations with client visits, sites, and facilities. Virtual office hours are a time when you are at your desk available to meet with anyone on a first come, first serve basis. The benefit is you save time not wasting time scheduling phone and video conference meetings that can be done during your window and when the other participant is available.
Step 1: Your Open Door
Determine what your virtual office hours will look like for you. We recommend you take inquiries by phone, FaceTime, and video conference during your office hours.
Turn your email account to “offline” when meeting with people during your office hours. That prevents distracting and potentially embarrassing popups on the screen and new message alerts.
Step 2: Analyze
Analyze your workflow to determine what portion of your time should be for office hours. In addition to the obvious things like meetings, make sure to carve out time for the work you do that requires intense and uninterrupted focus such as reading, writing, research, data review, and critical analysis.
Step 3: Hours
While reviewing the work analysis, determine the total number of hours you have available for virtual office hours.
Step 4: Schedule
It’s time to set your virtual office hours schedule. Office hours should not vary from week to week. If you and your stakeholders don’t know off the top of their head when your office hours are then there will be no discipline in maintaining them. You can improve your productively by never, not ever, scheduling a meeting on a Monday.
Sample Schedule with Virtual Office Hours:
Monday: 9 am - 5 pm: Work on things that require uninterrupted focus. No meetings or office hours.
Tuesday: 9 am - 10 am: Answer emails and voicemails.
Tuesday: 10 am - 4 pm: Virtual Office Hours.
Tuesday: 4 pm - 5 pm: Answer emails and voicemails.
Wednesday: 9 am - 5 pm: Meetings and Work
Thursday: 9 am - 10 am: Answer emails and voicemails.
Thursday: 10 am - 12 pm: Virtual Office Hours.
Thursday: 12 pm - 5 pm: Meetings and Work.
Friday: 9 am - 5 pm: Meetings and Work.
Step 5: Verify
Verify that your virtual office hours plans make sense to key stakeholders. Do the times work for them? Do the communication methods? If so, great. If not, discuss and come to a solution that works for everyone.
Step 6: Announce
Share your new virtual office hours with key stakeholders. Craft an email that explains how having hours you’re always available by phone or video conference benefits the stakeholder.
When stakeholders ask for scheduled meetings during your virtual office hours direct them to your schedule. That way they know they can pick up the phone and call you any time during the virtual office hours whenever they are free, or they can schedule a meeting during the times when you are available for meetings.
Step 7: Stick to It
Virtual office hours are only effective if they are used consistently. Stick to them and they can help you be productive and effective at work.