Technology’s Effect on Communication in the Workforce

By Guest Author Chad Matsui

Bill Nye and a Naval officerIn the workforce, communication is absolutely essential to guarantee a successful business.  Over the past couple of decades, there have been hundreds of technological breakthroughs that have made communication over long distances a buttons-push away.  Information and communication technologies (ICT’s) have continued to improve the quality, accuracy and ease with which people can communicate over physical distances.  However, what has seemed to be only helpful to the workforce has turned into a dilemma, as ICT’s can not only bring people together with little difficulty, but they can also block people out with the same ease.

Leonardi and colleagues investigated how many managers allowed their workers to work out of their homes by using ICT’s, which would allow easy access to the worker.  36 people were interviewed who stated they employed workers and let them work out of the office.  32 of the 36 participants (89%) provided ICT’s for the worker to use, meaning the majority of businesses used in this study consider communication an important factor to employees working out of the office.

People carry the belief that communication is important to off-site workers.  However, over the past few years  a growing concern exists over whether or not the ICT’s used to help communication between workers has actually helped more than harmed.  Leonardi and colleagues also found that workers who worked at home strategically used the ICT’s to reduce communication between other workers to conceal the fact that they did not do all the work they needed to do.  8 of the 26 (22%) of the surveyed workers acknowledged the use of “disconnecting” from their ICT’s as a viable tactic to increase the distance of their colleagues and superiors.

ICT’s have allowed workers to stay at home while remaining a dedicated to their company.  People can now handle personal problems or obstacles in the privacy of their own house and still stay on top of their workload while away.  However this technological connection between worker and business can also hinder the workforce as communication solely relies on the workers to be available and willing to connected.


Leonardi, P. M., Treem, J. W. & Jackson, M. H. (2010). “The Connectivity Paradox: Using Technology to Both Decrease and Increase Perceptions of Distance in Distributed Work Arrangements.” Journal of Applied Communication Research, 35, 85-105.