Where Did We Put the Whiteboard Markers?

Woman writing on whiteboard with blue dry-erase marker

Remember that feeling when you are in a conference room with your colleagues or client, someone has an idea, and they jump up and start scribbling on the whiteboard?

Remember that feeling when you want to leap up, grab the marker pen, and add to the diagram they just drew? How you have to hold yourself back until the right moment? The sheer excitement that you have with that anticipation?

That’s what I miss under the COVID restrictions. That, and the pretty coloured marker pens.  

There’s a valid argument that over the last 15 months it has been great to work from home, not waste hours on travel, and have more quality time with our families.

All this is true, but the reason we go into a physical office is to collaborate. Sitting around in our temporary workplaces in our bedrooms and dens doing Teams calls isn’t true collaboration.  

I like what we are reading about the return to work, and how there will be a hybrid mix of in-office and at-home work. More often than not, the office days are being termed “Collaboration Days.”

The theory is good, but think about your best collaboration/brainstorming moments.   Were they as part of an organized brainstorming session, pre-planned for 10:00 a.m. on Tuesday the 1st June?   Or were they after you just finished that meeting, and a few of you stuck around to continue debating the problem? Or when your client came out of her office and said, “hey, let’s grab a coffee, there’s an idea I want to bounce off you.”

How often do you stay on after the end of a Teams meeting to chat with the two or three people who also stayed on after the call? I’ll wager very, very rarely. How often do you stand up in your bedroom, call someone on Teams and say, “let’s go for a walk, I want your ideas on something”?  

If you read the analysis, work life under COVID restrictions has moved to be largely “focused” i.e. sitting around in our dens and bedrooms thinking about something and writing a document or email. Our “focused” time now outweighs our collaborative time. But is anyone actually reading your emails or your documents? Are they understanding what you really mean?

When you sit in a conference room with your client, and she hands you a marker pen and asks you map out how you see the roadmap for the next six months, you don’t get to go off to your bedroom, doodle in Visio for a few hours, and then send her a pretty picture.   Once you’ve got past the initial fear and adrenalin rush, you stand up, grab the marker pen and you draw that roadmap. Then she grabs the marker and adds something you missed. Then you grab a different colour and add something else…

I’m looking forward to getting my hands on that marker pen. And the adrenaline rush.