I invite you to cast your minds back to a time when meetings took place in the office meeting room, when staff engagement wasn’t measured by whether or not cameras were left on and the infamous “sorry, I’ve got to jump on another call” wasn’t uttered at the end of every discussion.
Back then we were able to differentiate between a scheduled meeting with a clear agenda and a quick informal catch up, and calendars didn’t seem to be quite so focused on maximising output.
One of the (many) adverse effects of home working has been the shift in working patterns and with this a tendency to diarise and map out the entire week. Whilst it can be very useful to keep track of when colleagues are available, I can’t help but feel like having to sift through someone’s calendar for a window of availability does not encourage collaboration or even communication, and is creating distance between teams.
I don’t know about you, but I miss the unplanned and unconstrained exchanges over a coffee, after all, many of our best ideas or solutions come from agenda-less and spontaneous exchanges between colleagues.
A second adverse effect is the increase in emails that fly back and forth. With colleagues no longer sat within shouting distance, we are now resorting to email for those quick questions, but what happens when the answer isn’t so quick? We end up with a chain of 15 messages, interrupting workflow and increasing frustration with each reply that lands in your inbox. And what’s worse is that when we eventually realise that email isn’t serving for this discussion, we are now by default checking diaries to see when we can schedule a meeting to pick up the question in hand (cue cycle of sifting through colleagues’ calendars and finding a 30-minute window in 3 days’ time).
But all of this could be avoided with a simple phone call.
Yes, there is a chance that the person won’t pick up, or worse, that they do pick up only to tell you they’re unable to talk, but what if that doesn’t happen? What if you’re both able to step away from your screens, stretch your legs and maybe even share a laugh whilst being able to find the answer to the quick question.
This is not only more time efficient than both the lengthy message exchange and the scheduled meeting (which always seems to last 30 minutes, even if there is just one quick question to discuss) but let’s not forget the considerable role that chit chat has in reducing stress and anxiety, as well as being the foundation of good working relationships.
And if stress relief and relationship building aren’t good enough reasons to persuade you to reach for the phone, how about the added bonus that the invaluable task of nurturing connections can be done from anywhere. The pandemic is giving us an excuse to combine a call with a power walk, so take it!
I don’t doubt that we should continue to schedule catch-ups and watercooler sessions into our calendars to allow for regular team conversation, but such meetings serve a different purpose to the impromptu and the uninhibited chat, and cannot replace it.
So next time you want to talk to someone, do yourself a favour and give them a ring.