Whilst platforms like Teams have made interaction of remote working teams more effective, have they also had an adverse impact on the ability of people to get things done?

Neville Doughty, Partnership Director

The shift to homeworking during the pandemic expedited the implementation of Teams and other messaging channels for many organisations, necessity being the mother of invention.  Other organisations, especially Tech and developer teams perhaps had been using Slack for some time, but the need to work collaboratively and remotely brought these methods of working into the mainstream.

Making people more accessible through a quick ping on teams or starting a call has all kinds of advantages, a quick clarification on a point, the occasional meme, some great team interaction.  So why would I be calling out the same platforms that enable this to happen as a risk?

A few questions; maybe once you’ve answered these then you’ll dare to think the same?

  1. How many different Teams channels do you have, I call them channels, but you may call then conversations or groups?  There’s a new incident to deal with, someone creates a group, you know what I mean.
  2. How often do you search for a document that you were sent off the back of a conversation and it takes longer to find than it used to, this may just be me getting older…
  3. When you’ve been away from the office for the day or off on holiday for a week, what do you do with your Teams messages, all those conversations sat there in bold?
  4. How often are you working on a document and a ping, ping, ping begins?

Teams (or other such platforms) have the ability to steal your time:

  1. Having multiple conversations means additional time keeping up with them. Depending on the number of people in the conversations and what they are related to, there can often be chatter on a related item that you don’t need to respond on, but you still heard the ping and therefore read the message – concentration can be broken by this and as a result productivity impacted.
  2. The conversations that you don’t need to be involved in the additional comment/back and forth, could be like the equivalent of going and sitting on the desk of a colleague whilst they have a conversation that you don’t need to be part of.
  3. Those multiple conversations can mean that if there is a document or a link that was shared, it could be in one of many places.
  4. When you were away from the office and you missed a conversation that was it, you’d missed it and if there was something material you needed to know you were either sent an e-mail to catch up when you got back or someone made a note to ask you for input, you would not have replayed all the conversations.
  5. The ping, ping, ping – that can be avoided by setting do not disturb, but realistically how consistently do people do this?

Practically, what can be done to minimise the risk and take all the benefits?

  1. Agree an approach for creating new groups, I’ve seen great examples where a channel is set for dealing with a specific type of issue, key people are on the group, if it is needed the bat signal goes in there, detail of the issue and the team are good to go.
  2. Be brave enough to suggest that you don’t need to be in that group any longer and that you plan to remove yourself (if you are needed you can always be added back in).
  3. Agree where you are sharing documents, if they are in a meeting then share in the chat for that meeting for example, this works especially well for recurring weekly meetings.
  4. Be selective as to which threads you go back and review when you come back to the “*the office” (*wherever that may be)
  5. Schedule focus time so that you can get deep work done without interruption, put that time in your diary, it will block the time out so you don’t get the pings, if something urgent comes up, people can still get hold of you.

Agree, or disagree? Let us know your thoughts!