Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Hey! Hey! Hey! The Gang is All Here

Technology is great at bridging gaps between people. I can send and receive emails and instant messages from anywhere, to anywhere, anytime.

However, technology surprises sometimes even someone as technological savvy as me. Or should I say – the people using that technology surprise me.

Occasionally I will work from home, or even when I don’t work from home this happens too – I’ll get a quick call from a co-worker checking in on a project or that needs some information.

However, thanks to technology, often that co-worker isn’t alone. I’ve been surprised on more than one occasion with group conference calls.

“Hey Jordan, Bill here,” the voice of a colleague on the phone says.

“Hey Bill, how’s it goin?” I respond, thinking it’s just a normal call from a co-worker.

“Pretty good Jordan, do you have a minute to talk?” he asks.

When you work for multiple clients on multiple deadlines, it is always more than kind – often it is a requirement – to ask if I’m busy before answer a call. I may be rushing to a meeting, on a tight deadline, or heading to another office. Not everyone asks if I have the time to talk – but it is appreciated when someone does.

If I’m not rushing I’ll take the call. If I am rushing, I still may take the call, simply because most phone calls these days are quick. If there was something more involved a meeting is usually scheduled or someone actually arrives unannounced at my desk for a chat.

“Yeah, no problem Bill,” I respond, thinking this will be a quick call as per usual. “What’s up?”

“Great, oh, I’ve got Chandra, Mary, Josephine, Doug, Tim and Will on the call too,” Bill says matter-of-factly.

Great – this quick call just turned into an instant meeting. When you have that many people on a call, you know it is going to take at least 10-minutes or more. Everyone has an opinion and everyone will voice it.

The power of technology rears its ugly head.

It is great to be able to conference-in people from anywhere and at anytime. However, that doesn’t mean it is a good idea.

Had I known there were a number of people in on this call, I’d probably told my co-worker that I have a meeting, a deadline or whatever else it is I’m working on coming up and that my time is limited. I’d still answer a few questions, but now at least, everyone knows that I can’t sit around and be in this instant meeting.

But my goose egg has already been dropped. I’m stuck in this instant meeting, because I’ve just told them I’m free and available to chat.

Not only does this affect my scheduling or projects and work, but it also tosses my head for a loop. Unlike those already in the meeting, I haven’t had time to prepare. Although I may have an idea as to what they are discussing, I really don’t know. So, I don’t have any materials prepared ahead of time to use to prove my points, or field someone else’s questions.

It also affects other office rituals – like eating at one’s desk.

I could have been eating my lunch at my desk while working away – not all that uncommon these days. When you’re on a conference call, there is very little time to munch and work – all your attention has to be on the phone.

There you have it – technology at its finest.

Thankfully, they haven’t started putting phones in bathroom stalls – yet.

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