It is July. Always a strange month as it is full of endings: the days have stopped
getting longer and although there is still lots of summer to come it feels like a
turning point. More importantly the academic year is coming to an end. We have
small children leaving their first school to go to “big school” in September; older
pupils thrilled to have completed their exams and about to leave school either to
enter the world of work or off to college or university; and then all the students
leaving those very universities. It is a time of great change full of anticipation and
hopefully excitement but with an underlying anxiety about those exam results being
good enough, about the fear of the chosen course being right, the joy and terror of
leaving home and the undelying concern about becoming responsible for yourself.
Put that in the context of parents who might be severely stressed about the rising
cost of living and the UK could be a troubled place this summer. Thank goodness
for Henley, Wimbledon, and the Commonwealth Games to look forward to.
So apart from the sport what am I thinking about?
I am having problems with hybrid working. Those of you who know me will find that
very odd. I have worked from home for the last twenty years. However now it is
different for me. I wonder if it is for you?
During pandemic, my business turned completely to Zoom. I had used it only
marginally until then and saw most of my clients face to face. It worked well. Then
we all adapted to Zoom and that worked well. Now I am having to find the balance
again. When to go and see someone? When to meet by Zoom?
This is made worse by people offering me their electronic calendars to make
appointments. Calendly is particularly popular. It is very easy to use but it dictates
the length of the meeting and then makes the Teams or Zoom appointment. And I
hate the way it takes control.
I first had an electronic diary in 2000 when dinosaurs roamed the earth. It was on
display for the rest of the organisation to see and all slots were an hour – back-to-
back. My PA and found all sorts of ways to misrepresent things. As an HR specialist
I did not want people to put their names in because often the issue was sensitive or
confidential. Sometimes because the work was hard, I needed recovery time. I
certainly needed preparation time and time to take the actions as a result of seeing
someone. Only I knew how much time that might be.
In the last twenty years electronic calendars have become much more sophisticated
and can cater for all these things. However, I will no longer use one. I need to think about the individual people I see. How long do they need? Might they overrun?
Might I need processing time? And what is the running order – must not have two
many high maintenance or draining people grouped together. I also do lots of
different things in my life and try to group those activities together. So, I reverted
to a paper diary and old fashioned as it may be my Filofax rules my world. (I see
plenty of them about, so I am not the only one.)
What has this got to do with hybrid working? Here I am in my workroom at home,
and I have a paper diary both of which give me control. Not so.
Some of my meetings are still on Zoom and that can be a great use of time
especially if there are lots of us and I would have needed to travel a distance to get
to a venue. My clients are almost all working on Zoom, and they love it because
they do not have to travel. I love it because it takes three minutes to get from the
kitchen to my workspace.
Some of my meetings are always in the real world and I can plan for those – and I
need to, especially having to review who will be attending. Zoom with its names
underneath faces has made me lazy. And have you noticed how different people
look when they are standing up and you can see all of them?
It is other meetings that are causing me concern. First of all, there are the ones
where some clever soul says why don’t we meet alternately: real world and Zoom.
Great idea but extra time and planning is required to allow for travel time to make
sure I am in the right place at the right time. Then there is always someone who
cannot actually get there (and am I being too suspicious when I think did they plan
properly or is it convenient Covid – do you know this variant?) Of course, they have
an important contribution to make so they have to Zoom in. It never works
properly does it? They cannot hear; we cannot hear; we spend inordinate time
trying to move the microphone to improve things. I lose the will to live.
Then there are the people in my network with whom I need and want to keep up.
Do I see them face to face or do I suggest Zoom? If I suggest or agree to face to
face do I remember to plan in the travel time both there and back? Does an hour’s
meeting become half a day? When we plan it, seeing this lovely person may be
exactly the right thing to do but will it be the same when there is less than a week
to go and life is busy, business is manic, or the temperature is forecast to be 32
degrees and I do not want to be in business dress?
What do you do in these circumstances?
Mostly I try to meet my commitments but a couple of times recently I have had to
postpone. I am honest it is always about infinite work and finite time, and I tell
them that. However, it makes me feel wretched. All my working life a cancelled
meeting has been a gift of time now it also makes me feel guilty and I fear the
other party might feel of less importance than they should.
Are you having similar issues in this new world? How are you tackling them? And
how do you feel?
None of this changes my role as a mentor. If you would like to speak about your
business issues and about how to enjoy and develop your business life, then
perhaps we should talk. If as you read this, it resonates with you or someone you
might know; if you like my ideas and values especially my honesty; if you want to
develop your business or yourself; then please give me a call (no electronic
calendars to navigate I promise). I love speaking with people, off the meter, to help
them explore possibilities and whether/how to take them forward. I hope you will
be one of them.