Effective communication in the workplace
Effective communication in the workplace

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Effective communication in the workplace

1.1 Remote working

In the UK, there are 4.8 million freelancers, mostly home-based workers, making up 15% of the workforce, and companies are increasingly allowing employees to work remotely (Sawa, 2019).

Benjamin (no date) suggests 6 ways for an organisation to communicate effectively with its remote workers:

  1. Balance your communications – remote employees can be overlooked because they are out of sight. Try to ensure that someone speaks to a remote member of staff at least once every working day.
  2. Replace water cooler moments with short but frequent communications – exchange pleasantries at the beginning of the day and keep them in the loop about daily happenings in the office.
  3. Choose the right medium for your message – messages that require a quick response should be delivered by phone or instant message, complex instructions can be emailed.
  4. Think critically about how your message will be perceived – as you learned in Week 5, without non-verbal cues, written messages can be misconstrued.
  5. Remember that communication is not a one-way street – let remote colleagues know how to contact you and when you will be available.
  6. Provide opportunities for interaction with other colleagues – this will help them to feel more involved.

From the perspective of the employee, this last point raises the issue of potential loneliness.

Watch this video to hear remote worker Rab Segall talking about how he combats this problem.

Download this video clip.Video player: Video 2
Skip transcript: Video 2

Transcript: Video 2

RAB SEGALL
I love working remotely. I can remember the first time that I actually got to work remote and understand that this is the right format of working that fits me. I was working at a company full-time. And one day, there was an electricity breaks. So we couldn't work from the office, and we had to go and work from home and just communicate over emails.
And that day, I was so productive, that I think by 11:00, or maybe it was by noon, I finished everything that to do for today. And I just-- like, my mind was blowing. Like, oh my god, every day I'm going to the office, and I waste so much time trying to get there and just chit-chatting with everybody around me.
And I got to do so much more work, meaningful work, and just focus and concentrate on doing awesome work when I was working from my home office. And that was actually part of the reason that I went out freelancing. And now, even though a lot of the companies that I work with are in the same geographical location, same city as I am, I still prefer to work remotely with them, because I really think that this works well for me.
But one of the key things that I struggled with, when I started working remotely, is how to deal with the loneliness. Because I'm a social person. I love actually hanging out with people and just chatting with them and making friends. I met my wife at work. So I love those social encounters and brainstorming with people. And so I lacked that, coming into the remote workplace.
And the thing that I found that works best for me is taking every lunch break as a social time. And so a lot of people try to be very efficient at their lunchtime and try to get it done in under an hour, or eat in front of the computer or whatnot. So what I do is I block two hours every day for my lunch break, and just try to meet up with people.
It might be old friends that I haven't seen in a while. It might be people from my industry, and just connecting with people. Sometimes it's the people I work with.
So everybody-- every time somebody else, and just go out and have a good time. Obviously, that does a lot of good into my work relationship and referrals and getting clients, stuff like that. But mostly, it's just a social thing for me that I really, really enjoy.
Now, when I just got started, I was really feeling bad about this. I was doing this instinctively, I guess, because I like meeting people every day and going out of the house for a little bit. But I felt bad about paying so much for eating outside.
But eventually, I realised that this is part of the business for me. So this is part of a business model for me. Some people pay for office space. I pay for eating outside, because this gives me all the social things that I need.
And so I stopped feeling bad about this. This is just a business expense for me, like the cost of doing business and staying happy with what you do, and making working remotely a sustainable thing for me. Because I still think that everybody is different. But for me, this is totally the way to go.
So obviously, I recommend working remotely. I think it's more effective, but you have to find your own way and do the thing that makes it work for you. And I think that working remotely allows you to be more flexible and create the environment that works for you, including how to deal with loneliness. Hope you're having a great day. I'll catch you tomorrow.
End transcript: Video 2
Video 2
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Activity 1 Could I work remotely?

Timing: Allow 10 minutes for this activity

In the box below, summarise what the pros and cons of working from home would be for you. Aim for at least 3 pros and 3 cons.

You can type text here, but this facility requires a free OU account. Sign in or register.
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Discussion

Even if you’ve never worked at home in an employment context, the experience could be very similar to time spent writing a dissertation or other piece of academic work. Dorsey (2017) outlines the following pros and cons:

Pros

  • flexible working hours
  • no commute
  • better work-life balance
  • home comforts
  • no office politics.

Cons

  • social isolation
  • few work friends
  • lack of group brainstorming and colleague support
  • distractions
  • IT issues.

It is interesting that many of the negatives of working from home relate to communication – whether that is social or task-related. Did you highlight any communication issues in your list?

If you are at an early point in your career, you might find that working surrounded by people is more valuable at this stage, as it allows you to establish networks more easily and experience many of the situations and issues outlined so far in this course. The more communication experience you can gain, the better your skills will become.

Remote working is also particularly relevant to a topic you investigated in Week 4 – participating in meetings.

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