Updated: Oct 6, 2020
Well, 2020, it's been a blast. From the heady days of air-punching because we'd found some toilet roll in the 24-hour garage, to the unadulterated joy of being temperature checked as we try to eat a socially-distanced meal out, we've all, I hope, learned a lot about our own resilience and capacity for change.
One of the most significant change for many of us, of course, has been the change in our working lives. I work remotely, so have been used to what it means to have a 'virtual' relationship with my colleagues but, prior to lockdown I was travelling almost five days a week to clients' offices. And overnight all of that stopped and I've been in my home office pretty much every day since. It's a pretty nice office and I have a none-too shabby view out of it but, nonetheless, it's not been easy.
One of the issues is, of course, that we are now 'always on'. Work has come into our homes and we are now connected to our offices, our colleagues and our managers perhaps more than we every were when we went out to work. Microsoft recently commissioned a study of 1,400 information workers and found that 40% of people work outside of regular hours in a way that impacts family time. The report also found 70% don’t fully unplug from work. Disconnecting is much more difficult to do when 'work' is also your kitchen table.
But another issue is the type of connectedness we are all now experiencing: productive, outcome -centred communications are the norm. What has, for some, been lost, are those 'off-task' connections which we had when we were in an office, the serendipitous conversations as we made a brew, and the social networks (the in-real-life ones) which we were able to build over shared lunches in the canteen.
As a result, there is an unhealthy tension between feeling both too connected to work and, perhaps, not connected enough to our colleagues.
So what can we do - practically - to help to mitigate some of these issues? Well, try these for starters...
Taming Teams: Top Tips
1. Don't get caught in what Fried and Hansson term 'the presence prison'. It's perfectly legitimate for your Teams status to default to 'Away' if you are away from Teams for a while because you're in Excel, or Word, or taking the dog around the block, or eating lunch, or generally just not being in Teams 24/7. If you do feel the need to account for your whereabouts, you can manually change your status and - usefully - also add a status message which lets your colleagues know what you're working on - if you think they're that interested...!
2. And in relation to '1', make sure that you book focus time each day - if possible - and each week, if not. As Cal Newport points out in Deep Work, we all need time to engage in focused work which requires concentration. Back-to-back Teams meetings won't afford us that. Use Focus plan in Office 365 to build protected time into your schedule.
3. Manage your notifications: you can change both your Teams-wide settings and your individual chat and post preferences.
4. If there are time of the day and or the week when you don't want to receive notifications, you can set Quiet Hours on your phone.
5. Channels and in-channel meetings can become social spaces. Set up a 'Coffee' channel and kick-start an in-channel meeting via 'Meet Now'. Your colleagues can drop in here just as they might drop into the social spaces at work.
6. Not everything needs a meeting. Think about other ways to collaborate: can you use Whiteboard to mind-map ideas with your colleagues? Or might you collect ideas into OneNote?
7. To Do is one of my favourite apps. In one place, you can see all of the tasks you have added, anything that's been assigned to you in Planner, and all of your flagged emails. Soon you'll get a view of this in Teams too.
8. Remember, as Warren Buffet states, 'busy is the new stupid'. Find time in your day to do some thinking, some socialising or simply nothing. Soon you'll be able to top and tail your day with some thinking time by way of a built in 'virtual commute' and Headspace is also coming to Teams: