Workplace Communication in the Work-From-Home Era

Workplace communication in the office during normal times could already prove to be a tough and tricky issue. Throwing in work-from-home (WFH) arrangements during COVID-19 could amplify these communication breakdowns along with existing issues typically faced in the office.

As COVID-19 rages on, as employees we might need to come to accept this new way of working. In this article, we relook some useful ways to help employees cope with communication in this new “era”.

1. Working from Home or Homing from Work?
With workplaces grappling with the new WFH and telecommuting arrangement starting early 2020, lines between work and leisure hours became immensely blurred.

With almost 6 months of this part behind us, it has become more and more clear that such a lopsided arrangement will be unsustainable in the long-run. Companies are coming to terms that this WFH will continue in the medium-term. We need to manage their expectations of what kind of hours we will be working.

WFH should allow for some flexibility to manage our own hours since we have full access to our work station both day and night. If managers require us to stick to a rigid schedule, then you should communicate your own work schedule boundaries that you are comfortable with.

2. Schedule frequent check-ins for “face-time”
Not only subordinates, but managers themselves have a hard time reconciling with the new arrangement. They might be insecure if they cannot see their employees physically in person. Though we would like to think we have moved away from typical desk-bound 9-6pm jobs, this is still not the case for most local companies.

Give your bosses greater reassurance that you are doing your work at home, even when they can’t see you sitting at your desk. Have more frequent check-ins and updates via video calls to replace the loss of “face time” in the office.
Ultimately in these tough times, we have to also tough it out to keep our rice bowls intact.

3. Use collaborative tools beyond video conferencing
Being constantly on video meetings might actually drain a lot of our energy, especially if meetings are scheduled back-to-back. You always have to be on “performance” mode in front of the camera where everyone can see your expressions up close.

Though it is good to be engaged in team discussions, suggest moving some collaborative items to other platforms such as Google Docs or Trello. Here you can work on items together “live” without being on camera.

Bonus tip: Remain contactable and accountable even if you are away from your desktop. Install instant messaging applications on your mobile so you get notifications regarding urgent requests.

4. Virtual team bonding and shared meal sessions
Lastly, suggest activities to boost company and team morale. Perhaps try unwinding together with your colleagues towards the end of the week with a virtual “happy hour”. Send cocktails to the doorsteps of employees or arrange for food delivery where teams can partake in a meal virtually.

Some companies have even arranged for team bonding activities such as terrarium building workshops or craft workshops virtually. Such downtime could be good for employees to talk about leisure matters. This will help to encourage deeper interaction and lesser chance of burnout during WFH.

Related: 3 Toxic Workplace Signs You Should Be Aware Of

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