Back to Reality!31 May 2022
There’s no doubt about it, we are definitely BACK in the physical world. After moaning AT LENGTH about how much I’d had enough of working from home during the pandemic, I now find myself ‘back in work’ a LOT. And I have to confess, that this too is annoying me. How can I put another washing load on between Zooms? Who is going to be there to collect my parcels? Out come the posh dresses again and, urgh, my ‘work shoes with heels’ (calling them simply ‘heels’ won’t do because they are, of course, sturdy ‘comfy’ ones :D).
Worse of all, shock horror, I find that my productivity levels have dropped. My inbox is being left to languish and my list of things to do has grown. Is this because there are simply more things to do now? Face to face courses, events etc.? or is it because I’m missing the focused, protected time that ‘working from home’ provides?
One thing’s for sure, there’s a lot of catching up with people to do, and this, rightly, takes time. The Executive Education office is located conveniently next to the Executive Education Suite and as it’s a lovely space, bustling with activity, so a lot of people drop by. It’s so lovely to see people that you haven’t seen for a long time but before you know it, 20 minutes have passed and ‘ARGH! I STILL HAVEN’T SENT THAT EMAIL!’. I’m reminded of the ‘pokayoke‘ type device used in hospitals by staff who need to administer a ward’s drugs – they put on a high viz jacket with “do not interrupt” on it to try to make sure that they aren’t distracted when dishing out medications to people – the theory being that less distractions will mean less errors. Could I fashion a “sending a taxing email” high viz vest I wonder?
There are lots of things to get used to again. I’ve forgotten to carve out ‘travelling time’ between meetings in different buildings for example, no longer able to simply press a button to jump into the next. Despite the Spark building being literally across the railway line from the Business School, because they axed the building of a bridge at some stage of the project, getting to ‘where everyone is meeting these days’ takes a 15 minute speedwalk. In other irritating news, the University has introduced a new expenses system which on the one hand, has meant that I have received the quickest ever expense claim reimbursement ever, but on the other, seems to mean that I can no longer buy anyone a coffee again for a meeting and claim it back without prior approval from the University’s Executive Board.
I jest. But come on! My job is to ‘engage’! This is IMPOSSIBLE without refreshments.
It’s not all bad however. All of the team were in one day for an event and we were all sat at our desks in the office, in the space of 45 minutes, we got so much sorted just from popping our head over the monitor and asking a quick question related to the item that we were working on. It’s almost as if being physically with each other enables much better communication? Who knew?!
It’s also a joy to see the return of my ‘post it note box of tricks’ which has been languishing in the Exec Ed Office for 2 years. I seized back control of it so that I could deliver a lean programme for a great South Wales company. As the groups were peering over the brown paper, chatting about the process and shuffling post its cheerfully, I thought to myself “hmm you don’t get this amount of communication when you are doing this in Miro”.
There was more warmth, more laughter, more fun creating the map together and in person. More involvement too – I think that when you conduct these exercises digitally, they do tend to attract the more digitally competent to step up to the plate and start remotely shuffling the boxes. Which is fine, but it does make some members of the group more passive automatically, which isn’t great. In this instance, digital is not better.
Regular readers of this blog (if you are out there!) will know that I’m usually a fan of all things digital – great digital services make things simpler, more efficient and can give power to the user, collapsing the need for transportation and related delays, but what if you aren’t good with computers? What if the tangible and physical yield better results? What then?
I’ve been in Brighton for a couple of days on holiday and stopped in a Coffee shop for an urgent latte. There was an older lady there buying a coffee, to drink in, and we started chatting, she was very sweet to my daughter and I could tell she was keen to talk. “Have you got a Costa card?” I asked because I have become very good at using mine because of how sweet those free coffees taste when I have collected enough ‘beans’ (please note – I am not on Costa commission) “You can get free coffees if you come in regularly you know?”.
She immediately showed an interest in getting one to the Barista only to be told that Costa have done away with physical loyalty cards, you can now only collect ‘beans’ via their app. The lady didn’t have a smart phone. I felt terrible and dropped my iphone, so essential that I carry it on a rope around my neck, in embarrassment at my digital arrogance and brought our conversation to a quick close with ‘have a lovely day!’ before shuffling out, latte in hand and at speed.
The lady sat down with her coffee on a table on her own, Costa Coffee Card less, and I wondered about all of the people who are left behind in digitalization’s wake. I have no real solution to offer except to suggest that I don’t think it’s right for organisations to forget about a part of your client base, particularly when its probably a section of society that may value you more than most.
So whilst I have mocked the post it note, and have sighed as I heave that box about the land (and get annoyed at the people that make post it note “staircases” out of my post its for their own amusement – I will find you….) those little gummy squares are so useful and do help to facilitate great, inclusive discussion.
Just had a terrible thought – I may never be able to panic buy emergency post it notes for work and claim the money back ever again without first seeking prior approval?!?! Nooooo!