We have all been there, the depressing return to work after the Christmas break, everyone showing off their new attire (or tech!), and the general ‘did you have a good break?’ catch-ups over the desk divide or at the coffee machine. These catch ups usually involve tales of eating and/or drinking too much and declarations of what we are now officially giving up for the New Year. Now this isn’t always the case but I’m pretty convinced that we have all at some point tried to show interest in what our colleagues have been getting up to whilst our mind is distracted by the pile of work we need to get through on our first day back.
Let’s think about this
When I last worked in an office (not that long ago – January 2018) I may have had the same conversation with say 10 people on my first day back. Each conversation (unless you were in a group huddle) might, for arguments sake, last 2 minutes longer than a typical over the desk/kitchen conversation. For ease of calculation I am excluding those contacts that you have a similar conversation with on the phone or via email and anyone else that you don’t happen to see on the first day back into the office. This means that 20 minutes of my first day back was ‘burnt’ with ten lots of the same 2 minute conversation.
Bear with me
There are approximately 32.41m people working in the UK as at September 2018 (Source: Labour Force Survey Office for National Statistics). So, if every one of those workers has the same experience as I did, where a whole 20 minutes of their first day back was eaten up by these post seasonal pleasantries, then this results in a grand total of 1,233 years, yes years, dedicated to telling every colleague the same story. That is a lot of downtime, or if you are an employer, unproductive time.
Just don’t ask
I’m not suggesting we completely cut out that general how was your Christmas/New Year chit chat but think about how much time is used up with such pleasantries within your team, or your department, or company. It may be worth considering setting up a specific ‘chat’ on whatever internal communication tool you use. Another alternative is to have a ban on asking the question ‘did you have a good break?’. For the more technologically advanced you may consider recording a podcast or vlog (with your new Christmas jumper on display) which can be circulated amongst interested colleagues.
This year I am happy to be the director of my own company as I can legitimately request no one asks me if I’ve had a good Christmas and New Year when I head back to work!