Happy Family

Communicating With Friends and Family While Working Remotely

By: Mike Townshend

June 2020
Today, out of necessity, a large percentage of our Federal workforce is working remotely, often at home. This way of working has challenged many of us to remain focused on our work, yet responsive to our friends and family as the day goes along.

Interruptions are problematic based on timing and distraction. When friends learn that we are working from home, they often assume that we are now available during the day and expect us to be responsive to their calls, emails, texts, and, even, stopovers. The fact is that any of these will likely be distractions from the work that we need to accomplish, often on deadline.

I am a writer of books and articles and I need time and concentration while managing interruptions, usually by phone and emails, so I am with you in this endeavor to keep my focus on my work, while valuing my friends and family when they need to communicate.

My recommendations for how we can keep control of our time while remaining sensitive to friends and family begin with an acknowledgment that friendships and family interactions are crucial to our happiness and best not ignored but, rather, managed with thoughtfulness and joy.

When interrupted, usually by phone, though sometimes by visiting grandchildren, I try to understand the need for communicating with me at the moment with a smile. Then I tell them the truth that I am working on a deadline and I ask them if they need to speak with me is something that can wait until later. If it can, I set up a time to communicate, in person or by Skype or Zoom so that we can see each other and have the talk that they need. Conversely, if they tell me that their need is urgent, I will ask for a time frame for our conversation of just a few minutes. This has worked with a few exceptions, so I am able to keep my head in my writing. Here are a couple of suggestions that I found from an Internet search:

Surprise someone with a ‘real phone call.’
A real phone call – what’s that? It helps catch up on our days and what’s going on in our lives so much more clearly than text messages. Pick up the phone to make a call and hear someone’s voice! It will make you smile.

Try video over Instagram.
Video chatting over Instagram is one of the newcomer video methods, in addition to video via WhatsApp, Google Hangouts, Facebook Messenger, and more.

Finally, it is no secret that interruptions are inevitable. There is no value in expressing anger at the person who is interrupting. Most adults will understand our needs to work during certain hours and honor our time. But, children, not so much. Their needs are more immediate and constant. It will happen that they will enter the background of a video conference and cause an interruption. Please realize that most of the attendees on the call will understand fully and allow you to move your child back to their play area. In all matters of communication, keeping a sense of humor is a critical requirement and smooths most needs for attention and allows our days to be both efficient and enjoyable. Remember that a smile cures most needs – ours and our family’s and friends’.

Mike Townshend is a professional philosopher, social psychologist, and a certified mediator and Retirement Coach. He has over 30 years of experience as a coach, senior trainer, and facilitator to both major corporations as well as government agencies. He has extensive presentation experience providing a variety of programs emphasizing career development, retirement preparations, alternative dispute resolutions, change management, leadership development, and performance improvement.