How over-communication may backfire in telecommuting

A report from the United Nations International Labour Organisation found that while employees are more productive when they work outside of the conventional office, they're also more vulnerable to working longer hours, a more intense work pace, work-home interference, and, in some cases, greater stress.

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Just as space in a relationship is essential to sustain it, space at the workplace is also important. This space should never be compromised, especially when employees are working within the four walls of an office. Communication is certainly the key, but sometimes, when the line is crossed, it may have a damaging effect and instead of feeling connected and engaged, employees may end up feeling annoyed and exhausted.

A report from the United Nations International Labour Organisation reveals that while employees are more productive when they work outside of the conventional office, they’re also more vulnerable to working longer hours, struggling to keep up with a more intense work pace, dealing with work-home interference, and, in some cases, even greater stress.

According to Nihar Ghosh, CHRO, Emami Group, over-communication in a virtual world is similar to hounding someone. He says, “While communication is important to keep the thread between an employer and an employee, overdoing it or repeated interference tends to cross the line of communication.”

Adil Malia

The excess communication has destroyed the family life balance, owing to the extra work pressure with unnecessary monitoring every hour

“There are times when a manager is unable to decipher the importance of work and bugs the employee every 15 minutes. This leads to unavoidable consequences and ultimately the purpose of getting the work done remains unresolved,” Ghosh adds.

As most of the working professionals are not accustomed to remote working, to avoid any interference, Nihar’s mantra is to be patient and keep the expectations as low as possible.

Regressive monitoring and excessive follow-ups can be fatal.

Too many cooks spoil the broth

You have probably heard the advice: ‘Excess of everything is bad’ and Adil Malia, chief executive officer, The Firm, seems to follow this in his role of remote leadership.

Malia believes,” Anything in excess is bad, particularly in communication, which rather needs to be focused and directed. If not followed, not only does the subject remain unresolved but a series of new problems arise too.”

What leads to over-communication?

In a regular office or workplace, an employee can simply walk over to a manager’s desk to chat, schedule a meeting in person, or call someone up for a quick project update. For remote workers, distance appears as the ultimate barrier and this pushes the managers to thoroughly follow up for the work assigned to an employee.

Sharing his personal perspective on the excessive interaction with remote workers, senior HR leader, Kinjal Choudhry, says, “Insecurity has become common in telecommuting, as there is no face to face interaction between the employees and employers, and therefore, the pressure to follow up and check in frequently is more.”

Nihar Ghosh

While communication is important to keep the thread between an employer and an employee, overdoing it or repeated interference tends to cross the line of communication

Choudhary also mentions that the assumption that people don’t approach work seriously during remote working, along with excessive communication spoil the game altogether.

With the trust factor intact, employers will choose not to communicate aggressively, and that employees need not compensate just because they are working from home.

Drawbacks 

Choudhary is of the opinion that attending innumerable phone calls is more exhausting for the remote employees than attending face to face meetings, as one has to be far more precise in the former engagement.

When an employer is excessively interacting with an employee, there comes a point when the latter is unable to figure out the right or wrong and proceeds to follow in the wrong direction. “Just the way medicines cure a person, but excess intake can be poisonous,” alludes Malia. He explains that in the given example, the remote employee is in a confused state and ends up following the wrong direction, which generally happens in times of crisis, such as the coronavirus pandemic. This will further lead to catastrophic mismanagement of work.

Work-life balance – A myth

At first, over-communication does not seem such a bad idea, as it is assumed to bring out the perfect balance between work and personal life. But this preconceived notion begins to fall apart as soon as the number of phone calls and emails rises, and eventually starts affecting work-life balance.

Malia’s approach to this notion is no different. He feels that before asking the employees to work remotely, there needs to be a transitory process where they should be mentally prepared on how to actually work outside the conventional workplace.

Kinjal Chaudhary

Insecurity has become common in telecommuting, as there is no face to face interaction between the employees and employers, and therefore, the pressure to follow up and check in frequently is more

However, lately, Malia has observed that the scenario has completely changed. “Work from home doesn’t define a 24 hour job. The excess communication has destroyed the family life balance, owing to the extra work pressure with unnecessary monitoring every hour. Soon, people will be tired of this work-from-home culture,” he explains.

And as work-from-home comes with no official leaves, Choudhary says, “Employees are found to be engrossed in their laptops every single day. This way, a normal working day gets compromised and the impact is quite ironic —while working from home, the time invested is much more than required.”

While the gap in communication is considered to be the biggest disadvantage of telecommuting, we also need to be cautious about not overdoing it, as over-communication may actually end up doing more harm to the remote employees than good.

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