How to Use Presence to Lessen Your Workload (at Work)

There are days when tasks at work seem to originate from a never-ending source. You’ll find yourself swallowed up in things you should be doing, and even feel overwhelmed. The feeling of being flooded with things to do is hellish. The thoughts which live in the deepest portions of your psyche may fear losing your job, or may keep telling you to walk away from it. The stress which being behind on work gives birth to makes you act emotionally toward seemingly docile asks. It puts you at risk of doing or saying something that wouldn’t normally cross your mind.

The inquiries sent your way at work are usually warranted. The tasks you’re responsible for need to be done, and you very well know that you’ll be working toward their state of completion. The problematic feeling of being overwhelmed can be eased however. The feeling of being overwhelmed has a lot to do with how others approach you surrounding work you owe. Something this article hopes to communicate is that controlling your presence at work can help you alleviate some of the pressure-filled ways others approach you surrounding tasks. In this case, being seemingly more present and available can serve to lower the pressure put on you by others to complete your tasks. Below are some reasons why being more available to your colleagues, physically and cognitively, can lead to fewer overwhelming inquiries being sent by them.


Perceived Importance of Their Ask

Imagine yourself working from home in one scenario, and working amidst everyone else within a shared office space in another. The concepts surrounding your presence are easily imagined using these two examples. While working from home, your output there may be similar to your output while in the office, but your presence will be lessened.

(Lack of presence can also mean a lack of social presence, in which you don’t show the ones around you the attention that they seek. A lack of social presence can express itself in ignored emails and appearing too busy for anyone who starts a conversation – which means you can be not socially present even if you’re physically there.)

How present your appear to be will have an effect on how important others perceive their asks of you. Say for instance your manager wants you to send out communicative emails to all the subject matter experts surrounding the project you work on. This task may seem trivial when you’re working on more important ones. However, the perception your manager has of this task depends on visual and social feedback they receive from you. Should you limit your physical and social presence, your manager can only assume their ask to be important. They’ll have nothing to compare it against; they won’t see you working on other things, responding to other inquiries, and generally being busy. The presence of these other cues will force your manager to at least think twice before asking things of you. Your presence will hopefully encourage them to question whether or not their ask is important enough to be submitted in that moment in time.

This effect will multiply with more potential inputs. If you work amidst a large team from which you are prone to receive many miscellaneous tasks, the slightest shift in your level of presence can result in big changes. Typically the more present you appear, the less worried they will be about their asks not being completed – and thereby reach out to you less. Connecting back to the working from home scenario: your lack of presence will encourage those who assign you tasks to perceive what they’re assigning to be important. They will have no visual or auditory cues to judge and filter their requests by, and will be forced to consider what they need done to be urgent.


Acknowledgement of Issues and Emotions

Should you increase your presence around those who are likely to ask a lot of you, they will calm their perceived notions of you not being in the know. Being present around them – and thereby their issues – will encourage the notion of you being educated on the matters at hand. You’ll be perceived as being aware of any upcoming tasks, plans for the future, and immediate next steps. Being around colleagues and their issues serves to connect you with them even if you have no idea what their issues are about. They’ll consider you to be on their team and their interactions with you will be tagged with less negative assumptions. They’ll be more willing to explain things in a positive manner, and will be more likely to forgive mistakes.

Physical presence serves to smoothen the jagged edges of telecommunication. There will be fewer misunderstandings, fewer errors in interpretation, and people tend to be more understanding when you’re there in person. The ones who assign tasks will be less worried that you’ve missed their message should you show your face and spread your voice in an effort to be present. They will be less anxious over you completing work. So rather than trying to get away from your bosses, and the work they assign, take the opposite approach. Show your face enough for them to perceive you to be a hard and honest worker. Hide from work in the most obvious place if you choose to. Hide from work in plain sight.

Read our analyses of current events by becoming a subscriber.

Disclaimer of Opinion: This article is presented only as opinion. It does not make any scientific, factual, or legal claims. Please critically analyze all claims made and independently decide on its validity.