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If You Want to Be Successful at Work, Polish Your Communication Skills First

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If You Want to Be Successful at Work, Polish Your Communication Skills First

Most of us spend the majority of our day communicating with people at work, but we rarely stop and think about whether or not we’re actually good at communication.

With any other skill, you’d be constantly looking for ways to grow and develop.

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So why not communication?

It’s been shown that businesses with effective communication are 50% more likely to have lower employee turnover [1]. Good communication skills also make work more enjoyable, reduce the risk of projects going wrong, and reduce workplace conflicts.

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It takes hard work and dedication to learn to communicate well. Start with the essential workplace communication skills below. We’ll talk about

  • How to manage conflict
  • How to listen better
  • How to deal with cultural differences
  • How to receive criticism
  • How to give helpful feedback

How to manage conflict

Managing conflict at work is all about staying calm, listening carefully to everyone’s point of view, and being as understanding as possible [2]. Next time you’re hit with a difficult conflict at work, try the following steps:

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  • Stay calm. If possible, take a short break from the conflict and do something relaxing/fun, like meditating, reading or taking a short walk. You’ll be better able to deal with the issue when you’re not angry or annoyed.
  • Listen. Give everyone involved in the conflict a chance to state their case. Use active listening techniques, like repeating part of what somebody says back to them, to show that you’re fully engaged.
  • Be understanding. Show that you can empathise with your coworkers. Instead of saying, “Why wasn’t the report finished on time?”, say something like, “I understand that you’ve had a lot on your plate and might be struggling.”
  • Never make it personal. Instead of saying, “You’re always late to meetings!”, say, “It’s really important that we start the meeting on time.”
  • Find a solution together. By getting everyone involved in working out a solution, nobody will feel they’ve been treated unfairly. Once the issue is worked out, do something positive together, like having a coffee or watching a funny video. It’s always best to end on a positive note.

How to listen better

Active listening in the workplace is really important. Try the following techniques to ensure you don’t appear bored or disinterested when talking to others [3].

  • Make eye contact and smile. Staring off into space is a big no-no.
  • Check your posture. Face towards the person you’re speaking to, maybe leaning forward slightly or turning your head to one side.
  • Ask questions. This shows that you’re actively engaged and thinking deeply about what’s being said to you.
  • Repeat or summarize information. This reassures the listener that you’re paying attention and understanding fully.

How to deal with cultural differences

Having a diverse range of employees can be really good for a company, but can also cause issues. You might find that members of the team have different ideas about what’s acceptable and what’s not. Head off any potential problems by keeping communication open, emphasising the positives of having a team made up of so many unique individuals, and catering to the cultural needs of every employee.

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How to receive criticism

Receiving criticism can be really tough, especially when you’ve worked hard on a project. Make the process easier by following these steps.

  • Remember that it’s nothing personal. Even the most successful people make mistakes, and this is how we grow and improve.
  • Focus on constructive criticism. If you receive a comment that doesn’t help you to improve, ignore it. Focus on criticism that actually helps you.
  • Make a plan. Break down what you need to do to improve into small, simple steps. That might mean rewriting the report one section at a time, taking a course to improve your skills, or asking for more support at work.

How to give helpful feedback

Giving feedback sometimes feels as hard as receiving it – nobody wants to hurt a coworkers feelings. When giving feedback be clear and concise – get to the point, rather than skirting around the issue. Make comments with the intention of helping your coworker, rather than insulting them. Instead of saying, “Your formatting is all wrong,” say, “This would look even better with the correct formatting.” Avoiding words like ‘you’ makes your coworker feel less attacked.

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Good communication skills are essential regardless of where you work. Start learning now and you’ll be in for a much easier and more enjoyable career.

Reference

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Eloise Best

Eloise is an everyday health expert and runs My Vegan Supermarket, a vegan blog and database of supermarket products.

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Published on September 21, 2021

How Remote Work Affects Your Productivity And Wellbeing (Backed By Data)

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How Remote Work Affects Your Productivity And Wellbeing (Backed By Data)

The internet is flooded with articles about remote work and its benefits or drawbacks. But in reality, the remote work experience is so subjective that it’s impossible to draw general conclusions and issue one-size-fits-all advice about it. However, one thing that’s universal and rock-solid is data. Data-backed findings and research about remote work productivity give us a clear picture of how our workdays have changed and how work from home affects us—because data doesn’t lie.

In this article, we’ll look at three decisive findings from a recent data study and two survey reports concerning remote work productivity and worker well-being.

1. We Take Less Frequent Breaks

Your home can be a peaceful or a distracting place depending on your living and family conditions. While some of us might find it hard to focus amidst the sounds of our everyday life, other people will tell you that the peace and quiet while working from home (WFH) is a major productivity booster. Then there are those who find it hard to take proper breaks at home and switch off at the end of the workday.

But what does data say about remote work productivity? Do we work more or less in a remote setting?

Let’s take a step back to pre-pandemic times (2014, to be exact) when a time tracking application called DeskTime discovered that 10% of most productive people work for 52 minutes and then take a break for 17 minutes.

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Recently, the same time tracking app repeated that study to reveal working and breaking patterns during the pandemic. They found that remote work has caused an increase in time worked, with the most productive people now working for 112 minutes and breaking for 26 minutes.[1]

Now, this may seem rather innocent at first—so what if we work for extended periods of time as long as we also take longer breaks? But let’s take a closer look at this proportion.

While breaks have become only nine minutes longer, work sprints have more than doubled. That’s nearly two hours of work, meaning that the most hard-working people only take three to four breaks per 8-hour workday. This discovery makes us question if working from home (WFH) really is as good a thing for our well-being as we thought it was. In addition, in the WFH format, breaks are no longer a treat but rather a time to squeeze in a chore or help children with schoolwork.

Online meetings are among the main reasons for less frequent breaks. Pre-pandemic meetings meant going to another room, stretching your legs, and giving your eyes a rest from the computer. In a remote setting, all meetings happen on screen, sometimes back-to-back, which could be one of the main factors explaining the longer work hours recorded.

2. We Face a Higher Risk of Burnout

At first, many were optimistic about remote work’s benefits in terms of work-life balance as we save time on commuting and have more time to spend with family—at least in theory. But for many people, this was quickly counterbalanced by a struggle to separate their work and personal lives. Buffer’s 2021 survey for the State of Remote Work report found that the biggest struggle of remote workers is not being able to unplug, with collaboration difficulties and loneliness sharing second place.[2]

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Buffer’s respondents were also asked if they are working more or less since their shift to remote work, and 45 percent admitted to working more. Forty-two percent said they are working the same amount, while 13 percent responded that they are working less.

Longer work hours and fewer quality breaks can dramatically affect our health, as long-term sitting and computer use can cause eye strain, mental fatigue, and other issues. These, in turn, can lead to more severe consequences, such as burnout and heart disease.

Let’s have a closer look at the connection between burnout and remote work.

McKinsey’s report about the Future of work states that 49% of people say they’re feeling some symptoms of burnout.[3] And that may be an understatement since employees experiencing burnout are less likely to respond to survey requests and may have even left the workforce.

From the viewpoint of the employer, remote workers may seem like they are more productive and working longer hours. However, managers must be aware of the risks associated with increased employee anxiety. Otherwise, the productivity gains won’t be long-lasting. It’s no secret that prolonged anxiety can reduce job satisfaction, decrease work performance, and negatively affect interpersonal relationships with colleagues.[4]

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3. Despite everything, We Love Remote Work

An overwhelming majority—97 percent—of Buffer report’s survey respondents say they would like to continue working remotely to some extent. The two main benefits mentioned by the respondents are the ability to have a flexible schedule and the flexibility to work from anywhere.

McKinsey’s report found that more than half of employees would like their workplace to adopt a more flexible hybrid virtual-working model, with some days of work on-premises and some days working remotely. To be more exact, more than half of employees report that they would like at least three work-from-home days a week once the pandemic is over.

Companies will increasingly be forced to find ways to satisfy these workforce demands while implementing policies to minimize the risks associated with overworking and burnout. Smart companies will embrace this new trend and realize that adopting hybrid models can also be a win for them—for example, for accessing talent in different locations and at a lower cost.

Remote Work: Blessing or Plight?

Understandably, workers worldwide are tempted to keep the good work-life aspects that have come out of the pandemic—professional flexibility, fewer commutes, and extra time with family. But with the once strict boundaries between work and life fading, we must remain cautious. We try to squeeze in house chores during breaks. We do online meetings from the kitchen or the same couch we watch TV shows from, and many of us report difficulties switching off after work.

So, how do we keep our private and professional lives from hopelessly blending together?

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The answer is that we try to replicate the physical and virtual boundaries that come naturally in an office setting. This doesn’t only mean having a dedicated workspace but also tracking your work time and stopping when your working hours are finished. In addition, it means working breaks into your schedule because watercooler chats don’t just naturally happen at home.

If necessary, we need to introduce new rituals that resemble a normal office day—for example, going for a walk around the block in the morning to simulate “arriving at work.” Remote work is here to stay. If we want to enjoy the advantages it offers, then we need to learn how to cope with the personal challenges that come with it.

Learn how to stay productive while working remotely with these tips: How to Work From Home: 10 Tips to Stay Productive

Featured photo credit: Jenny Ueberberg via unsplash.com

Reference

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