To email, to call, or to Teams – that is the question!

Let’s have a word about communication in ‘the office’ (whatever and wherever that is).  I think things are going awry.  Let us settle into a pattern of doing things better.

It’s been two years since the beginning of the pandemic and everything at work and in life has either been technologically fast-forwarded 15 years, paused temporarily, or stopped altogether – forever.  It has been a huge process of change.  Thank goodness for something new I say – as I have always loved reinvention.

If we are honest, none of us are sure what rhythms or behaviours we will return to next.  That is open to speculation.  In the meantime, I must admit there have been lots, I mean tonnes of really good things to come out of this process of change – for me and our business.  We have become closer to everyone in a time when we have been further apart.  Quite the contradiction. 

We accept that during any period of change and positivity there will be a downside.  That is what has stimulated today’s thoughts.  Because I would like to politely ask we stop for a moment and consider what is going on with communications at work. 

Today I had a 30-minute Teams meeting scheduled.  Requested by a client.  I agreed of course.  Having blocked out half an hour in my diary, it turns out the discussion lasted three-minutes max.  I was left wondering whether this Teams meeting could have been a telephone call (planned or impromptu), or even a quick email.  Then I reminded myself I used to promote calls and human contact over and above email as the default option. I still do.  Why would I not like this quick video call I asked? 

Well, here is the rub.  I have started to notice a trend.  One from client-side and one from mine.  I should, could, and do have complete control over my worktime (even when considering the needs of the team and of clients).  The challenge for all of us is how we choose to do so.  I have noticed the emerging trend in my diary is that it is filling up to the brim with meeting-after-meeting.  Technology and being bound to the office, or wherever I lay my device (paraphrasing Paul Young there for you eighties kids), is allowing me, facilitating me, nay trapping me, to say yes to every meeting it seems – too many at least.  This reality means I can attend a meeting with Newcastle the same day as one with Cornwall, Dubai and Hong Kong.  That was last week anyway. 

I have long been of the opinion that it is an unhealthy position to say ‘yes’ to all meetings.  Not every meeting is essential or effective, and the world does not stop spinning if you miss them – trust me.  Anything important will reach you soon enough.  The work mostly gets done in-between meetings.  I am wary of those that cram too many into their schedule.  Not only does it diminish their ability to do the work, but it also provides the perfect camouflage or excuse to why work isn’t being done, or for being uncontactable, people say “I am too busy to do that – sorry!”  For me it is a sign of not being able to say no, not letting go, an inability to delegate, and a bad case of presenteeism.  We should be accountable to outcomes and impact NOT inputs. Harsh, but true.

My ask is that we think again about how we are managing our days, weeks and months.  That we apply the method to the task at hand – whether that be a text even, an email, a call, or a Teams meeting, maybe even a trip for a face-to-face.  That we maintain human connections, but also be respectful of the time of others, allow people to choose and not attend everything, and achieve balance in our use of time so we get the work done healthily and safely.  I hope you don’t mind me saying.  It might help us with what might happen next.

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