Listening Script Vocabulary
(Section 3: You will hear a conversation between two students and a tutor about different working patterns. First, you will have some time to look at questions 21 to 23 [20 seconds]. Listen carefully and answer questions 21 to 23.)
T: Right, now you’ve both been looking at different working patterns in modern workplaces, particularly at the concept of flexible working. How is your research going Peter?
P: Well, I’ve been reading up on flexible working patterns, and why they are so important these days. It’s become a hugely important area, particularly to certain groups of employees. At the end of the day, any business from a small family concern to a huge multinational needs to consider whether flexible working practices can benefit it. The important thing is how to make it work for the particular needs of each workplace. Each business must recognise its own opportunities in terms of flexible working as well as its own threats.
T: And why do companies offer flexible working conditions?
P: Well, it comes down to accommodating employees. For example, companies that employ parents with young families may find they get requests for flexible working to take into account the start and end time of school or childcare. Organisations in the education sector might get requests from senior staff who want to take time out to focus on research.
T: What are the results of these flexible working practices? Did you find any information?
P: Yes, I did. On the plus side, these policies encourage people to stay with a company, and that is considered to be valuable because often they are experienced workers and it would cost the company money to replace them if they decided to leave. But on the negative side, these policies can lead to instability in the staff as people come and go regularly, and aren’t always available at regular times for meetings with clients and so on.
(Before you hear the rest of the conversation, you will have some time to look at questions 24 to 30 [20 seconds]. Now, listen and answer questions 24 to 30.)
T: Thanks, Peter. What about you, Jess? You were finding out about how managers deal with flexible workers. Is this something that is easy for managers to do? What kind of strategies do they use?
J: Well, the emphasis in the workplace at the moment is firmly on communication with clients and, in my opinion, communication with team members is neglected. It seems that very often workers who start early and finish early feel guilty for finishing their working day while colleagues are still at their desks, even though they have completed the same number of hours at work. From my point of view, managers should focus on helping flexible workers to manage their workload so that they don’t end up compressing more work into fewer hours than they are actually being paid for.
T: I agree, Jess, but managers seem to find it difficult to manage the expectations of other staff members.
J: True, but one of the most important tasks for a manager is to balance the right of the flexible worker on the one hand, and team spirit on the other. Managers need to be creative in their thinking to avoid tension building up between colleagues.
T: So what kind of training do you feel managers should be offering to flexible workers?
J: I think they need to help the whole team understand the policies and keep schedules etc transparent. What they tend to do in reality, is to leave the flexible workers to explain their absences to colleagues themselves. I’m not sure that is the best way to do things.
T: I see. So you think managers don’t do enough to support flexible workers to communicate with their teams?
J: No, it’s not that. Everyone needs to be able to communicate independently with their colleagues. But what’s missing is the support. Support given when employees start on a new schedule or take leave for personal development is vital. The important thing is that this support is shown right from the start so that the team understands immediately that management is in favour of the change. Of course, the support can come in many forms – an official written statement or through positive general interactions with the team.
T: Right. And to come back to you, Peter. You mentioned that accommodating the needs to both flexible workers and the team was vital. What else should managers be doing?
P: Well, managers not only have to support their employees, they also have to recognise the culture of the company. Flexible working may not always be appropriate for all companies – in fact, it could be destructive to some small businesses.
P: Balancing needs isn’t easy at all, particularly when there’s a change of external pressure. It can be tricky if the company wants to increase sales, for example. In that situation, the manager might have to prioritise sales figures over the requests of individual staff members.
T: Right. And that’s what makes it difficult.
P: Yes, that’s why managers must be able to deal with high pressure levels. During a period of change, they should only be thinking about the pressure of the whole team.
T: Absolutely, so …