Companies now recognize the potential for increased productivity, employee satisfaction, and access to a broader talent pool that comes with a hybrid approach. Thus, employee communications in a hybrid work environment must support increased flexibility, while driving collaboration, innovation, and a shared company culture.
Effective communication is the linchpin that holds the workforce together. When physical proximity is no longer a given, internal communications must be used to bind the teams, align organizational goals, and sustain a cohesive company culture.The separation between in-office and remote team members can create significant communication gaps, impacting collaboration and team morale. In-office employees have the opportunity for more spontaneous interactions, which can lead to organic idea generation, while remote team members don’t have similar opportunities. Shared experiences are limited when team members are not physically present. The potential disparity may affect collaboration and a sense of unity. This challenge requires intentional efforts to create shared moments that transcend physical boundaries and contribute to a unified company approach.
Facing Challenges and Moving Forward
Different teams might use diverse platforms for messaging, video conferencing, and project management. Navigating this variety can result in missed messages, overlooked updates, and a lack of cohesion in communication strategies, ultimately hindering the effectiveness of internal communication. However, providing a central hub can overcome these challenges. Employees should be able to go to one place to find all the information they need, when they need it.
Also, remember to take into account potential technical glitches, network instability, and varying working hours, which can impede the timely exchange of information, interfering with real-time collaboration and leading to delays. Murphy and his infamous law are always around the corner.
Building in Communications Effectiveness
Imagination is ideal here; find alternative ways to encourage spontaneous interactions, such as virtual coffee breaks or casual chat channels. As visibility may be an issue, make sure virtual employees get proper “face time” with management as well, not just their peers.
You may want to consider communications training for your employees; if the budget can’t cover everyone, the line managers should be first in line.
One issue we’re all experiencing is communications overload. While regular communications are critical, use the appropriate channels and keep messages short. You may want to consider creating channel guidelines – e.g., critical messages need to be sent via email so they don’t get lost among conversations in chat software. Email should not be used for “conversations;” instead, remind employees of the power of speech. Smartphones were initially invented for voice communications…If time and technology permit, video chat should be the “spontaneous” conversation tool. Seeing each other’s faces builds connections for remote teams.
Respect for people’s time also must be considered. Set boundaries based on time zones that ensure messages are answered in a timely manner but do not interfere with the work-life balance. For example, in Israel, Sunday email is the norm. Messages to colleagues abroad, though, should be sent only during their workweeks. If messages are sent during “inappropriate” times, longer response times should be standard.
One side benefit of “water-cooler” and “cubicle-to-cubicle” discussions are the social bonds they create. Time should be set aside for remote teams to get to know each other. These need to be accounted for as regular work hours; team members should not be penalized.
In addition, “remote” fun days can be held, such as providing a small budget so everyone can order takeaway from their favorite restaurants and eat “together;” have an artist host a video workshop; or play a game that everyone can participate in remotely. Incorporating remote social events helps build personal spontaneity into interactions. If budgets permit, bring all your remote employees together with the in-person ones for day trips or other bonding experiences.
In addition, create a balance between the praise and tangible rewards given to onsite employes and remote employees. Spontaneous recognition should be a benefit everyone enjoys.
Remote workers add countries, cultures, perspectives, and personalities. It takes effort to make them feel part of the team, but it must be done for the individuals’ and organization’s sake.