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Saturday, July 4, 2020

Interrupting during the work day

Couples counseling during a pandemic exposes some unique stressors than in "normal time." Many of my clients are, like my wife and I, working part- or full-time from home. In "normal time," communication problems during the work day are often limited to checking in with each other, who takes off to attend meetings at school, who stays home with a sick child, or calling the other if one is going to be late for dinner or to communicate "remember the milk."

Under "COVID-19 time," a couple with which I am working has what is probably a common problem. Both work full-time from home. Both use the Internet. One needs to be able to occasionally talk on the telephone (isn't that a quaint phrase?) with coworkers.  The other's main job is receiving calls from customers with user-level problems or "how to" questions. Those calls can last between 10 to 60 minutes. Because they are customers, he is "on" with the customer a majority of that time, although he can put a customer on "hold" to research something or to handoff the call. 

They found that they needed a protocol for what I used to call, in a previous career, "servicing an interrupt." It was a major tension-point, but easily solved. We brain-stormed.
  1. The sky is falling! House fire! Tornado! Duck and cover (Cold War reference)!
    Both agreed there are some situations in which they agreed to dispense with protocol.
  2. Longer question, answer required.
    Sticky-note on desk or computer screen. Don't wait around for an answer.
  3. Quick question, "Yes" or "No" answer needed. Sticky-note on desk or computer screen. Wait for answer or a wave-off. Both agreed to tolerate a wave-off.
Your plan may vary, of course. Just plan and talk about it.

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