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Workplace Communication During COVID and Remote Work

Hannah Ko, FOC Student Engagement Chair, Special Events Coordinator, UC CEAS


How to adjust our communication style to work effectively in a remote environment

#1: Be honest about our needs
We’re all human and go through different seasons professionally. Whether you’re going through a rough patch or your needs at work have changed, be willing to be vulnerable. Schedule a time to discuss your needs or struggles with your supervisor. Alternatively, consider approaching someone you trust at work to be your sounding board.

#2: Develop and practice empathy
Expressing empathy in a remote setting can be tricky, but it is a choice we can all make. Everyone has a different home environment and a different set of uncertainties they’re adjusting to during the pandemic. By acknowledging a horizon of context that extends perpetually beyond what [we] can see” (Jamieson 2014, pg. 5), we are taking the first step to expressing empathy. Acknowledge the validity of challenges others are facing and show patience and compassion for our colleagues and teammates.

#3: Create opportunities for authentic connection
Many of us would rather send an email than chat on the phone (trust us, we know!), but in a season where we crave and need connection, calling a colleague up, whether to catch up or discuss a work project, can do wonders. Step away from those emails once in a while and pick up the phone! In addition to that, set time aside for intentional social engagement with your teammates.

#4: Avoid micro-managing
This applies to everyone, regardless of managerial status. The need for control is understandable, especially when many of us continue to work remotely. Instead of micromanaging, set clear expectations for projects upfront, and create a reasonable process for updates and reports.

#5: Be attuned to your and others’ non-verbal cues
Being good at communicating on video calls is one of the best ways to be effective at working remotely. Things can get lost in translation now that many of us are not able to be in the same room as our colleagues. Watch what others are saying with their expression, tone, and body language. Are they using backchannels (the mhmms, uhhs, and nodding) to acknowledge what you’ve said? Are they looking at you? Being perceptive and in tune with what others are saying with their non-verbal communication will allow you to create space for others, especially colleagues who are more reserved in a virtual setting. This in turn makes you a better communicator and teammate.

What are some observations you believe are helpful to graduating students? What to do or not to do?

Tip #1: For our graduating seniors who may be interviewing for jobs, ask how the company you’re applying to has adjusted to the remote environment. This will give you a sense of how adaptable the company has been and the culture the company has when it comes to supporting employees during tough times.

Tip #2: If you’re starting a new position, find out early the communication preferences of your manager and colleagues. This will help you get in contact with different people effectively and complete your tasks more efficiently!

Tip #3: Use the right technology for specific needs. It’s good to learn the various virtual platforms available at your company. Whether you’re hosting a meeting internally or an event for an external audience, using the right platform will enhance our effectiveness and help you attain the outcome you want.

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