I used to get frustrated about how much time got wasted in my workplace. People would interrupt me when I was working to chat about the weekend, or things going on in their lives. I welcomed the odd storm day that forced me to work from home, as I could get so much accomplished when I was able to work without all those distractions.
But if you really want to talk about efficiency, email has been an amazing time saver. I’m part of a diminishing group of people who used to work before there was such a thing as email. Looking back, it’s mind boggling to think of how much longer it took us to do business when you actually had to catch someone on the phone to talk. I can fire off a dozen emails in the time it used to take me to make one phone call. And when things had to be done by phone, you couldn’t just get straight down to business either – that would seem rude. So you had to do the small talk, chit-chat thing before moving on to your real reason for the call. What a massive waste of time!
Except that it wasn’t.
I’ve seen good ideas wither on the vine because people could not work together to make them happen. I’ve seen how simple tasks can become incredibly complex because people are playing games, or don’t want to put in any effort for someone they feel doesn’t respect them.
I appreciate now that everything about work is really about people. Without relationships, very little happens efficiently. Differences of opinion do not turn into battles or become personal attacks when opposing sides know and respect each other. Good ideas can turn into great ones when people go the extra mile with their contributions to a project.
So I’ve changed my tune. Spending time building relationships does not interfere with my work. It is my work. Although I still appreciate the time saving that things like email have brought, I’m also aware that I need to attend to the people I work with – not just our tasks. After all, belonging is a basic human need, and without it, things go off kilter.
I heard a great line recently that I think sums this idea up very well: We need to loiter with intent. We need to hang out with people, get to know them, build relationships. Sure – it can be a break from work, but remember – it’s not a waste of time.