5 Tips for Communicating Effectively in a Hybrid Work Environment
From building trust to gaining alignment to influencing and navigating change, each one of these outcomes depends on the ability to communicate effectively. On the other hand, the cost of poor communications can be significant for the business. According to a study done by Salesforce, 86% of employees and executives cite the lack of effective communications as the main cause for workplace failures.
The ability to communicate effectively and with impact is more critical than ever before, especially in the remote and hybrid working environments that many of us find ourselves in. Hybrid work environments can be especially tricky because they combine the communication styles of remote and in-person work, making it easier for information to get lost in translation and coworkers to feel disconnected.
There are five key ways that leaders and employees working in remote and hybrid workplaces can overcome the communication obstacles that are inherent in these environments, and engage with their colleagues and teams effectively:
Tip # 1: Be more intentional about your written communications. We are engaging in a lot more asynchronous communications, which means that conversations between colleagues on platforms like email, slack, teams chat etc. can quickly become fragmented or worse misunderstood. Therefore, it is important to pay closer attention to the words you use.
Sometimes, it might even mean being more verbose and explicit than you normally would, and not to assume that the recipient will be able to get the “unspoken” intentions behind your message. In a hybrid working situation, it is better to over-communicate and provide all the information that the recipient could possibly need so that there is less risk of misunderstanding or unnecessary back and forth.
Tip # 2: Make yourself heard and seen in hybrid-meetings. In-person employees have an advantage simply by showing up while remote workers have to put in additional effort to be seen. Therefore, turning your camera on if you are a remote attendee is non-negotiable. Also, making sure that you get your voice heard in the room is also critical. Remote employees have to put in the extra effort to ensure that they are contributing their ideas and perspectives throughout the hybrid meeting so that their in-person colleagues don’t overlook them and what they have to contribute.
On the other hand, it is the responsibility of the meeting facilitator and in-person attendees to intentionally pull their remote colleagues into the conversation by asking for their thoughts and giving them additional ways to engage through-out the meeting such as through chat, and online surveys pre, during and post meetings. Another great tactic is to start hybrid meetings by inviting the remote employees to speak first. It helps level the playing field and makes remote colleagues feel like valued participants.
Tip # 3: Engage in more informal communications. Hybrid work environments do not give everyone the opportunity to engage in impromptu water-cooler chats during the day. Therefore, it is important for those working in hybrid environments to set-up regular informal check-ins with their colleagues, especially with team members not physically co-located. Not only will this help foster a deeper sense of camaraderie and trust, but it will also make it easier for remote and in-person employees to exchange valuable information that often supports the cultural norms and behaviors in the organization.
Tip # 4: Do more visual communications. A picture can be worth a thousand words. People notice and engage with visuals more than they do with text. The availability of a plethora of digital mediums makes visual communications easier than ever before. To communicate effectively in a hybrid/remote environment, every message should be examined to see if it can be presented visually, versus just text, so that it can stand out from the overwhelming amount of information that we see on our screens.
It is equally important to convey the message in an emotionally compelling way so that it sticks with the receiver, especially if the receiver is physically disconnected and might not have the benefit of experiencing the broader non-verbal context related to the message. Storytelling has always been an effective communication medium, but it is even more impactful in helping build meaningful connections between individuals who are not sharing physical, tangible spaces.
Tip # 5: Ask for feedback often. Any message can be susceptible to misinterpretation. Especially in a hybrid environment, messages between physically disconnected employees can quickly escalate to misunderstandings, mistrust, or even more significant challenges. This can overtime negatively impact the overall organizational culture and employee experience.
To prevent that, it is not only important to be crystal clear about your intentions for the communication and expectations from the recipient of the message, but also important to seek frequent feedback on the tone, delivery, format, style and impact of the communication. This will help keep all parties on track in terms of what is working and what needs to be adjusted and recalibrated to communicate more effectively with each other.
Hybrid work environments are no longer the future of work. They are the new normal. Being able to navigate and work in them successfully requires communicating with more intentionality, empathy and with equity in mind so that everyone gets the same experience and opportunities, regardless of which medium and from where they are engaging with their colleagues and the organization.