Opinion | IC on why communication is key in the workplace

Iowa City is full of small businesses ready to hire. College students looking to apply are encouraged to prioritize communication and integrity from the first interview on.


Matthew Hsieh

Fabiola Alsina works as the Facility Supervisor at the University of Iowa Campus Recreation and Wellness Center on Wednesday Sept. 16, 2020. Alsina feels safe working her job as she says, “It makes me feel comfortable as an employee and my co-workers around me to ensure that we’re in a safe environment to continue to do what we really enjoy.”

Yasmina Sahir, Opinions Columnist

Many college students know the struggle of juggling work and school responsibilities during the semester. 

In Iowa City, I consider myself lucky to have access to many employment opportunities between on-campus jobs, corporate companies, and local businesses. Working for local businesses has always felt more engaging than being stuck in an environment focused solely on productivity, financial gain, and robotic tasks. 

The U.S. Department of Commerce approximates 43 percent of full-time college students held jobs in 2018, and 27 percent of employed full-time students worked at least 20 hours per week. To maintain good standing with local business owners, college students should ensure they are transparent, reliable, and communicate regularly with their employers.

“Working for a local business definitely has its perks,” Lily Czechowicz, an employee at the cafe Cortado on Clinton Street, wrote in an email to The Daily Iowan. “I’ve had greater flexibility with the local businesses I’ve worked for than I would have had with larger corporate companies.”

Anna Kain, an employee at Heim, an Iowa City-based pottery and crystal shop owned by Anna Fretheim, echoed this sentiment.

“It feels good to work for a person and not a machine,” Kain said. “Communication is key in a workplace, as well as knowing that we’re making real products by real people.”

However, many local business managers, owners, and employees were unwilling or unable to comment on this DI report. 

One employee at The Java House in Iowa City even stated it was against employee policy to comment to the media. The Java House owners experienced community criticism in 2021 following reports of employee mistreatment. 

These responses got me wondering: If communication is key, why isn’t it happening?

I understand the struggle of navigating workplaces from both perspectives. As a young adult, it can be hard to learn work-life balance. Sometimes, non-work responsibilities can become too much to handle showing up for a shift. 

From the management side of the business, it can be frustrating to put energy into hiring and training unreliable employees. Many employers interviewed for this piece laughed uncomfortably when I mentioned the shared Iowa City experience of having most of your scheduled staff members take the no call, no show approach to working on football game Saturdays.

There must be a way to balance these competing needs.

Lindsay Chastain, co-owner of The Dandy Lion located on South Dubuque Street, provided insight into what contributes to successful working relationships between local business owners and college employees. 

“We can’t do what we do without our employees,” Chastain said. “If students are reliable and focus on communicating needs to the team, we do our best to be open to figuring out a schedule and time commitment that works for us all.”

When applying for jobs while in college, students should be mindful of how much time they can commit to a team versus what is needed for homework and rest. Many employers also mentioned on-campus jobs are great for students who don’t plan to stick around Iowa City during breaks, but that they won’t turn someone away if they have brief travel plans in the future.

We need each other to thrive. Without local businesses, Iowa City would not be as attractive to prospective students. Without their patrons, businesses could not stay open. This kind of symbiotic relationship is part of what makes Iowa City beautiful and unique. 

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.