There are two key personalities on a train. The introvert and the extrovert.
You know the ones I mean. You could be sat in the quiet zone, happily reading your book when David Decibel gets a phone call and proceeds to tell the entire train that his 2pm was absolutely shite but he doesn’t care because his timeshare in the Canary Islands just got bought and he’s now going to Butlins for 3 weeks. Or there’s the flip side and Suzie Shush asks you to be quiet and have some consideration when you have a sudden sneezing fit when you’re suffering with the worst known string of flu for 27 years.
So, with technology at a stage now where it has become possible to collaborate anywhere and make your travel time productive, how do you get around David and Suzie?
The old school conference call is dead. Okay, it’s not dead at all. It’s still the most popular way to communicate but technology is not to blame here – it’s adoption and all the limiting factors that lead to the lack of adoption.
Take the train example. I posted a blog last year suggesting that Chiltern Railways WiFi was good enough for me to hold a conference call using Skype for Business. The post was intended to explain how far we have come but someone commented that it is rude and annoying to have someone else chatting away – and potentially giving away secure information- on the train.
This is a valid point so this post is to remedy the issues taken with people holding conference calls – or just any calls- on the train.
1. Instant Messaging
On one train journey home, I took note that every single person in my carriage was using their mobile phone. Now, I have no idea what they were doing (Candy Crush, probably) but it got me thinking. The obvious answer to not having a call on the train is instant messaging – be it WhatsApp, Skype, SMS, anything. Sure, there might be a slight delay through a tunnel but that’s much better than having to call back and repeat what you just said – or shouted, in the case of David Decibel.
2. Screen Sharing
The more mature collaboration technologies have screen sharing options to bundle with the above instant messaging. Skype for Business is my Go To software for these scenarios because I am familiar with the user experience but there are plenty out there that do different jobs. Sometimes instant messaging doesn’t portray certain things and being able to see what your colleague is referencing is a great help.
3. White Boards
In my garden office, I have a real-life whiteboard. I have used this twice. However, I always use the white board when collaborating on a journey home so I can write down or draw ideas with other colleagues. This could be a real-time session on something like Zoom or it could be something like a Pinterest or Trello. People pop up ideas and I can move them around, scribble all over them or pinch them for myself.
Maybe you only want to converse with one or two people in your journey home – it is your time, after all. Presence has always been around. Remember MSN Messenger where you could appear offline? The working world finally cottoned onto that a few years ago so now you can be on Dot Not Disturb, Busy, Away or Offline even when you are actively chatting away. You are still being productive but selectively – no unwanted calls or messages can interrupt you.
In summary, technology is no excuse for causing unwanted noise and attention on the train because “you have to work” and there is no need for someone to have to shush you because you’re being too loud. If you’re unable to achieve this today then your workplace needs to catch up with the modern world.
It is tough to make changes and get the attention of the right people in your business but it is so worthwhile if you can get there. And if it really isn’t happening and you are sat around wondering why on Earth you are at a company that isn’t moving with the times, then it’s time to check our jobs page. We only work with companies that know what they are doing. Be safe in the knowledge that anybody on our jobs page is not operating in the dark ages.
Dominic Kent is a Technology Consultant and a Freelance Writer for hire. Versed in business and consumer technology, he regularly shares insights on the latest happenings in the industry as well as relating to everyday life. Find Dominic on LinkedIn here.