I went to a meeting later that week and the same thing happened!
This was a monthly 1-hour governance meeting where one of the managers arrived proudly carrying his laptop under his arm: he sat at the table, opened it up and started working. Every so often he’d lift his head to make a comment, or ask a question. Oh well, I thought, there must be a good reason for him doing this but somehow I don’t think so...I couldn’t help feeling it was a mark of disrespect to the other 6 people in the meeting – that his time was too precious to really be bothered but he was ‘there’ because he was expected to.
Then I started to wonder how this would play out in a Monty Python sketch with everyone doing the same thing…we all arrive at the meeting, set up our laptops and logon to check emails etc. We could all just sit in the same room together for an hour and then leave – call it a meeting and pat ourselves on the back for a job well done :)
Twice in one week this has happened. It might be a bit early to call it a trend except I was Skyping with a fellow student in Kazakhstan (I’m currently studying an International Masters online) and she shared a similar experience. So now I have three examples – maybe still not enough to call it a trend but somehow I find it quite disturbing. I should say at this point that I love technology – internet, email, Drop box, Skype, webinar software, Twitter, FB, LinkedIn, Buffer, Weebly, Instagram, ScoopIt, MailChimp, Survey Monkey, Yammer, Lync – I use them all. But this is about context. If you are going to physically come together then take advantage of what a face-2-face meeting can do that you can’t do on technology, otherwise make it an online meeting
Most organisations spend a lot of time working on their <espoused> culture, they make significant investments in sending their senior leaders and managers on leadership training programs and they agonise over the problems of silos and how to break them down.
Yet this emerging workplace trend has the potential to disconnect us even further. And then there’s the matter of constantly loading our brains up with ever increasing amounts of fragmented information that we have no time to make sense of. It also raises questions about creativity and innovation in the workplace – how organisations expect this to happen if no-one is ‘present’ and no-one has the time to either dialogue or let their minds ramble a bit.
So what is going on?
I don’t have the answers but I have a couple of ideas:
- Being busy seems to have become a badge of honour (but at what cost?)
- Digital addiction. You see this more and more out on the streets – people walking with their heads buried in their smartphones, unable to look up – hooked on their screens. (A colleague of mine recently told me about the last trip he made to the USA with the basketball team he was coaching – first trip overseas for many of them, in the USA for 3 weeks touring around playing basketball. The team spent the entire trip on their smartphones, barely looking out the bus window. This was when he decided it would be his last trip).
Break free of your devices and go on a digital detox
How are we looking after ourselves in these increasingly overcrowded workplaces where you are expected to be ‘on’ 24/7?
How do you stop yourself from feeling like your brain is drowning?
If ever there was a time to make our workplaces more human and more brain friendly it is now.