Laughter or the Unified Communications Multitasking Trap

baby laughing resized 600I like to laugh, don’t we all? I find humor in all sorts of places and situations. I’m a bit odd (okay I will admit it) I often laugh in unlikely places. I’ve laughed in the most appropriate of situations and some of the most awkward for instance, I often find myself the only person laughing in a crowded movie theater. 

I think we all need to find places to laugh, especially at work. I can be a bit short and tense at work, I find there is so much to do and I never feel like my company is moving quickly enough, so I become outwardly frustrated and I think many people can sense that frustration in me. A few employees at ANP have the great ability to bring laughter to our meetings, they always make me laugh. Laughter is such a stress reliever!

I found a great blog post in Harvard Business Review about laughing at work. In Why You Should Treat Laughter as a Metric, author Bregman writes about the lack of laughter as a symptom of a problem within organizations. And he suggests that increasing the opportunity for laughter should be a leadership priority.

Laughter in Bregman’s eyes means focus:Bregman emphasizes the fact that laughter requires you to be present and focused. You can’t laugh if you’re distracted or multitasking. As an example, he asks that you consider recent phone conversations – and what you were doing at the same time. (I am so guilty as charged.)

Bregman forces us to think about our own ability to focus at work: I hadn’t thought about it much, but the most productive (and entertaining) conversations and conference calls are the ones when I’ve been focused. When I’m fully engaged, I get the most from the conversation, have the opportunity to provide the most value, and I catch the opportunities to see humor – sometimes expressed out loud, sometimes more quietly via Instant Message to a friend. (Yes, I admit it.)

In just a decade, as business owners we quickly came to believe that multitasking was a sign of dedication and productivity. And we often do it because we’re essentially encouraged to do it in order to meet expectations. Technology like Unified Communications certainly makes it possible.

Unified Communications allows me to meet with people over distance, but I can also have other windows open on my desktop that beg attention at the same time. It’s not impossible to do the same thing in an in-person meeting, but it’s not as easy - or as tempting. And if I let it, that Instant Messaging indicator blipping in the corner can easily drag me away from a conversation that demands focus – it’s just a harmless little click, right?

We’ve reached a point where we sit in meetings preparing for other meetings, going through e-mail, or responding to Instant Messages. It’s hard to focus on one thing at a time. We may be doing many things at once, but how productive is our frenzy? How good is it for morale? Are we more likely to be frustrated and stressed versus amused and laughing?

What should we do with the power of Unified Communications on our desktops? As business owners, we can be more aware and catch ourselves when we’re dividing our attention into bits and pieces. For some people that may mean making a list that clearly prioritizes projects so that we’re not trying to do bits of multiple things at the same time. I find, if I make a list on a tablet every day, I am far more likely to get those things accomplished.  For others it may be as simple as a post-it note or a sign in our work areas that remind us to focus.

As managers, we can listen. Listen for laughter. Watch for signs of humor and amusement. If the laughter isn’t loud enough, consider the expectations and environment you’ve created for your teams. And consider the example we set. Unified Communications is a very powerful tool for communications, but I need to be every vigilant to stop multitasking with Unified Communications. I need to constantly remind myself to be fully engaged in my meetings! 
Do you encourage humor and laughter at work
 Do you laugh out loud? Can you become mindful of the multitasking trap of Unified Communications?

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