Flags are incredibly powerful. Heck, they’ve changed the very face of the world. Just ask Eddie Izzard. (Subscribers may need to click through.)
But they are so often forgotten in the work environment. They are a great visual indicator, and should be leveraged as such.
A few years back, my team took a stab at doing just that. It never came to fruition, but the idea has stayed with me long enough it seems worth sharing. We were working in a mostly open area. There were some dividers between people, but it was a very collaborative environment. This, though, isn’t very helpful when you need a little privacy. So we came up with a simple flag system. The flags included:
I’m either on the phone, expecting a call, or about to make a call.
I’m having a bad day/week/year, and really not in the mood to talk to anyone else. Space is appreciated.
Too much to do. If you start a conversation, be prepared to take some of my work as a souvenir of our time together.
Trying to blow through my work as fast as possible so I can make a break for the door.
The whole point of the flag system was to send the messages that could be interpreted in a negative way if delivered verbally. With the flags, we all agreed up front that those messages were fine, and we would respect them. It would open up our lines of communication and enable us to focus on work when we had to.
The bad news is we never used them. The good news is we all really liked the idea, we just decided our communication lines were open enough. I still think, in the right environment, they would be a great addition. Never underestimate the power of clear visual cues.
If anyone is using flags or other indicators this way, I’d love to see them.