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Hybrid working: skills for leadership
Hybrid working: skills for leadership

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3.1 Communicating without distraction

Watch the following video: Why active listening is crucial to motivating teams ( [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)]

Most leadership courses have sections about the importance of communication, but it has never been more important to develop listening and communication skills than in this new world and this new hybrid working world. As Dropbox’s Director of International HR, Laura Ryan, believes‚ we actually give these skills less time than ever before and that ‘being 100% present is actually a rare thing’.

Often the advice given to us about improving our listening and communication skills is about minimising the use of technology, but that is really difficult to do when you are logged into your laptop working from home or away from the office. A survey from Valoir in 2020 revealed that, although productivity has only been impacted by a small amount – the average reduction is 1% – social media is proving to be the biggest distraction when working from home (Valoir, 2020). One-third of Valoir’s survey respondents admitted to spending nearly 2 hours a day on social media. The other respondents felt children were a distraction. Employees compensate for these distractions by logging on earlier and finishing later, working an average 9.75 hour day (Valoir, 2020, p. 5).

It should be noted that those based in the office also suffered distractions from working in an open plan setting. Some employees said they actually got more work done and were less distracted at home, where there were fewer co-worker and boss interruptions (Valoir, 2020, p. 5).

Activity 21 Managing distractions

How distracted are you? Where are you most distracted? Do you keep track of how much time you spend on social media? Do you look at every notification that comes through on your phone or click on the pop-ups on websites?

Take the time to estimate how much time you spend on all these distractions from work and the impact that has on your day. If you don’t already have one, you could download an app that helps with focus by disabling certain functions while you are working.

Write some clear actions that you can take to reduce distractions this week and put them in your calendar to review at the end of the week. Consider how you could share these with your teams.

Don’t bring your meetings to a HALT

HALT – hungry, angry, lonely or tired – is an approach mentioned in Dyer and Shepherd’s (2021) book Remote Work. They recommend meeting leaders to check that participants are not suffering from any of the symptoms of HALT. Indeed, you should regularly check yourself during the day to see whether you are suffering from HALT before a meeting or other work conversation. If so, you might want to invite participants to eat their lunch (offscreen) while listening, or to take a few minutes to come back to the call. Include time in your meetings for personal connection and small talk, or arrange slots outside the meeting if time is critical, to arrange social activities to build connections and not just rely on work-based activities to do that.

Activity 22 Have you ever suffered from HALT?

Think back to when you experienced hunger, anger, loneliness or tiredness before a meeting and the impact it had on the meeting.

You can read about the particular impact hunger has on productivity here: What you eat affects your productivity. Do you recognise this ever happening to you? What actions did you take during a meeting because you were hungry?

You could also investigate the impact another aspect of HALT might have had on your meetings via an online search.

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