Finding a balance

Agile. Hybrid. Connected. Mixed.

Whatever you call it, we’re all doing it – working from the office and from home.

If you work in a sector like mine, then the move to home working when the pandemic hit might have been sudden and unfamiliar. This, of course, means that the move to agile working is also something new.

I’ve now been working this way for around three months, and by and large the experience has been positive.

Our agile working hub

It is undoubtedly a good thing to be able to catch back up with colleagues, in person. A number of projects and pieces of work have moved forward more quickly because we can work on these together.

I have loved seeing people I’d lost contact with. I relish the news and gossip I’d missed out on – from new babies to new jobs. I soak up conversations about pieces of work that I am interested in but wasn’t aware of.

Lunch from the local café, and sandwiches packed in tin foil have never tasted so good!

But I have to be honest and say that it hasn’t always been an easy ride. There have been lumps and bumps, and I am only now getting to grips with these and trying to smooth them out.

Spending time between two locations means being more organised. It means you need to ensure your diary management and time management are strong. I’ve noticed that on the days I am in the office, I am sucked into a mix of longer meetings, unplanned sessions and catch-up chats with colleagues.

These are all valuable. In fact, they’re essential. They also steal time.

As my team are in the office and a Monday and Tuesday, it means the back end of the week is even busier. I find my email inbox is packed with things I’ve not got near at the start of the week, I have work to pick up from the meetings on Monday and Tuesday, and I have additional meetings, virtually, with those who have avoided booking them at the start of the week.

It can be intense. Only by blocking out time in my diary can I achieve the things I need to.

The home office, in all it’s glory.

This brings me on to what I think is the biggest scourge of agile working – the half-hour meeting.

Back when we were in the office, people didn’t bother with half-hour meetings. They weren’t long enough to be taken seriously – perhaps people wouldn’t get out of their metaphorical beds for them.

At home, it’s different. At home, they’re all the rage. And as you don’t need any traveling time, you can nip from one to another at the stroke of a mouse.

This means things like a trio of back to back meetings – moving from topic to topic, all the while gathering actions on an ever-expanding to-do list, are increasingly common and increasingly problematic.

I think they’re especially challenging for communicators. I tend to find I am invited to half-hour meetings because people want me to do something for them. After all, it’s more than enough time to explain what the ask is, hand over the action, then sign off. It’s rare for a communicator to be the one handing over work, however hard we try. When we see a half hour meeting, we something’s coming our way.

I’d love to say I’ve found a solution to this problem, but in truth I haven’t. At least, not beyond being clear about what you can and can’t do, and how quick you can or can’t do it. And continuing to block out time. Keep doing that.

If you’ve got a solution, I’d love to hear it. In fact, if you’ve noticed the growth of half-hour meetings, let me know. How do you find them?

I always like to end on a positive note – so here we are: at least we don’t have 15 minute meetings.

And we do have canteen lunches again.

Published by Ian Curwen

Communications professional and a bit of a foodie that wants to travel more. Sharing my observations on life.

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