Imagine this; you need to be out of the office for an appointment at two. One- thirty rolls around and you check your email once more before leaving, making sure everything is taken care of. You go to your appointment, which finishes up about three. You’re back at the office around three-fifteen. When you walk in the door everyone is waiting for you, wondering where you were, questioning your reason for being out. Your boss isn’t very happy. It seems that one of your clients called with an emergency and you were not available. Now you’re thinking, “Do I have to be at my desk every minute of the day? Why can’t someone else pick up the ball for once? I can never do anything. Jeez, what gives?”
The real problem in the preceding scenario is the loss of workability. Your client had a problem and you were unavailable to help. Your absence was noted and an alert went out. People looked for you, emailed you, called you, talked about you. This resulted in a loss of time, both in terms of productivity for your colleagues and in solving the client’s problem. Because you did not assign appropriate cover, the problem had to be taken care of by someone who did not know the client or understand the project. The person that covered for you may have been able to solve the problem, but without the same efficacy and efficiency as you, or someone you briefed, would have. This often results in merely satisfied clients, not very satisfied clients–simply because you failed to set an expectation.
Now imagine this alternative scenario; you need to be out of the office for an appointment at two. With some notice before your appointment you let your supervisor and your team know you will be out and that you won’t be available by phone. You also let them know that Kevin, the nice guy that he is, will be covering for you in your absence. You’ve briefed Kevin on the project you are working on, bringing him up to speed. One-thirty rolls around and you check your email once more before leaving. You drive to your appointment, which finishes up about three. You’re back at the office by about three-fifteen. You walk in the door, slide into your chair, and call Kevin to see if anything came in while you were gone. No one was feeling anxious. Nobody wasted any time. The clients were well cared for. This is workable availability.
You can create workability in the following ways:
• Recognize that you are expected to be at your workstation during business hours.
• If you are not going to be available, you must let people know in advance, and they deserve to know why. You don’t need to provide specific details, but if you’re not working, your team will be more supportive if they know a little about why you’re out.
• Declare when you will return, whether or not you can be reached, and how they can reach you.
• Ensure that someone else is prepared to triage on your behalf anything that arises.
Workable availability is about setting expectations and being professional. Workable availability promotes productivity, makes an organization more effective, and creates happier peers and supervisors and loyal clients.
© 2012 Ralph Dandrea. All rights reserved.