Strong communication is one of the main drivers of success in a business. In the hybrid workplace, effective communication is especially crucial. With team members scattered across cities, states, and time zones, while others are in the office, it can be hard to keep everyone on the same page.
According to a McKinsey report, organizations with clear, thorough, and inclusive communication are five times more likely to see a boost in productivity.
On the other hand, unclear communication is one of the top three causes of employee burnout. In other words, communication can make—or potentially break—a team.
As with anything in your business, this can be solved with a clear plan. Use these ideas to develop a better communication strategy for your hybrid workplace.
Include your team in the communication strategy
Just 37 percent of hybrid or remote workers are actively engaged in their jobs, according to Gallup. When engagement declines, employee motivation, satisfaction, commitment, and performance will take a nosedive too.
If you want team members to feel more engaged, elicit their input. Ask them to play a role in forming the organization’s communication strategy. If you include employees in the decision-making and listen to their ideas, you’re more likely to get buy-in too.
Here are some questions to help you start this dialogue:
- What is the most convenient, efficient method for your supervisor and teammates to communicate with you? Will this change based on the particular location you’re working from (at home versus in the office)?
- In which situations would you prefer to use synchronous communication (phone calls, live chats, or video conferences that occur in real-time)? In which situations would you rather use asynchronous communication (emails)?
- How do you want coworkers and managers to deliver information, provide feedback, or resolve conflict? Do you prefer direct, straight-to-the-point communication? Or do you need to be gently eased into the conversation with advance notice, so you can take some time to mentally prepare first?
Be intentional about the tone and format
Some leaders focus entirely on what to communicate and overlook how to communicate it. In a hybrid workplace, where team interactions often take place virtually, it’s important to consider more than just the content of your message. The tone you use and the format you deliver it matters as well.
According to this report, companies lose an average of 7.47 hours of productivity per week due to ineffective or miscommunication—that’s almost one full workday. To avoid this pitfall, be intentional about how you share information and expectations.
Use these steps below to create more clarity in your communication.
- Think about the channel you’re using. No communication platform is one-size-fits-all—different channels serve specific functions. Consider the best format on which to convey a particular message. Do you have a simple, non-urgent question for a team member? Tag them in chat message. Does a time-sensitive issue need an immediate response? Make a phone call. Are you sharing a monthly report or a new policy update? Send an email. Do you want to give feedback, brainstorm ideas, or hold a performance review? Schedule a face-to-face meeting.
- Achieve the right balance in your tone. Whether the message is verbal or written, be aware of how the tone comes across. It should be clear and easy to understand, but also courteous and respectful. If you sound too curt in communications, you might intimidate employees or be viewed as unwilling to listen to anyone else. But if you massage the information too much, you’ll risk sacrificing clarity, which leads to ambiguous expectations. There’s a time for informal chats and a time for professional directives, so monitor your tone and adjust it to fit the situation.
- Know when to communicate in person. There’s no shortage of virtual communication channels for hybrid teams, but sometimes you need a face-to-face conversation. When you communicate in person, it’s easier to interpret nonverbal cues like gestures, posture, facial expressions, or eye contact. Research from Dartmouth College found that a balance of sharing and breaking eye contact allows for new ideas to emerge.
Structure your meetings to avoid proximity bias
Proximity bias takes place when a leader favors the in-office employees over those who work remotely. This creates inequitable opportunities for influence, decision-making, mentorship, or career advancement.
Employees who are more productive at home can feel pressured to come onsite just to avoid being overlooked. In fact, four out of 10 polled executives rank proximity bias as their main concern in the hybrid workplace, yet executives are also twice as likely to prefer an onsite team.
Here’s how to combat proximity bias in team meetings.
- Promote inclusion. Equip the onsite meeting space for both your in-office and remote attendees. Mount a large TV screen on a central wall to stream the feed and face all chairs in the room toward this screen so everyone can see each other. Make sure the Wi-Fi connection is strong, and check the audiovisual quality ahead of time.
- Ask for input directly from virtual participants. In-person team members can dominate the conversation, while their remote coworkers silently listen in the background. Before the meeting, 24 to 48 hours ahead of time, send an outline of the main talking points and then specifically ask remote attendees for their thoughts during the meeting.
- Invite a remote employee to lead the meeting. Delegate the meeting leader role to a remote employee where applicable. Not only will this create visibility for those attending on video, but it will also communicate to remote workers that you trust them to handle a position of leadership, even from a distance.
Prioritize employee recognition and feedback
When you’re not interacting with employees face-to-face, it’s easy to put employee recognition on the back burner. Yet, according to Workhuman, employees who receive consistent, on-the-mark affirmations for their efforts and contributions are:
- 5x more likely not to quit
- 5x more connected to the workplace
- 4x more engaged on the job
- 73 percent less likely to feel burnout
- 44 percent more satisfied in life overall
Positive reinforcement and feedback are excellent motivators, so follow these tips to build an internal culture of recognition:
- Ask each team member how they want to be recognized. Find out what feels most meaningful to each individual person.
- Be specific when offering feedback and recognition. Affirm your team members’ natural strengths, express gratitude for their contributions, and point out the areas where you see growth.
- Encourage the employees to recognize their teammates. Verbal recognition from a leader is powerful, but it’s also important to get this from peers as well.
Effective communication is vital in the hybrid workplace
In a hybrid workplace, effective communication is paramount due to the unique challenges posed by the combination of remote and in-office work environments. Clear and consistent communication becomes the linchpin that fosters collaboration and cohesion among team members who may be geographically dispersed. Unlike traditional office settings, where spontaneous interactions facilitate quick information exchange, hybrid work relies heavily on intentional and well-organized communication channels. Without it, misalignment, misunderstandings, and fragmented workflows can emerge, impeding the seamless coordination of tasks and hindering productivity.
Moreover, effective communication in a hybrid workplace is instrumental in nurturing a sense of inclusivity and maintaining team morale. Remote team members may feel isolated or disconnected without regular updates, feedback, and opportunities for engagement. Establishing transparent communication protocols ensures that everyone is informed, feels valued, and can actively contribute to the collective goals of the organization. This, in turn, fortifies a positive work culture, mitigates potential conflicts arising from miscommunication, and enables the team to navigate the complexities of a hybrid work model with agility and resilience.
So it’s absolutely important to create a hybrid communication strategy now. This will be your secret sauce for team connection, performance, collaboration, and ultimately, success.