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Simple Tactics To Improve Communication in the Hybrid Workplace
May 13, 2024

In our last blog post, we explored how we strengthen our self-awareness and emotional intelligence (EQ) muscles as these are foundational to your success in all aspects of life.  This week, we are taking a radically different approach and are sharing some insights and best practices from one of our strategic partners, Shana Bosler who is the Director, Coaching, Learning & Development for Emergenetics International.  

I have been a licensed and certified practitioner of the Emergenetics psychometric assessment for several years now and adding this tool into our leadership development practice was a fabulous decision. It has enriched the learning experience and helped many organizations we support to elevate their level of performance and results, not only at the leadership level, but deep and wide across all levels within their respective organizations.   

Last week, Emergenetics published a blog post called Improving Connection: Overcoming Communication Challenges in the Hybrid Workplace that we thought was very insightful, so much so that we want to share it with our community.

We have summarized Shana’s insights and added some of our own commentary to help you improve communication in your hybrid workplace environment. We hope you appreciate these insights as much as we did. Enjoy!

Hard Facts About Hybrid Work

Across the globe, numerous organizations from various industries have proven that we can be highly productive and successful without needing to always be in the same workspace. As noted in the blog post, hybrid work is popular with employees who desire flexibility and with organizations who are in growth mode. Personnel prefer a hybrid model 83% of the time, and it’s also favored by 63% of high-revenue growth companies. I would advocate that flexibility is in high demand by most employees and organizations that fit the ideal profile to offer a hybrid workplace environment.  

While the hybrid approach may be embraced by many, it still comes with some challenges and drawbacks. One of those challenges is communication. In the best of circumstances, effective communication does not always come easily. With evolving technologies and team members in different locations or time zones, it can feel even more daunting to find the most effective methods for sharing information.  

By being more strategic in how we manage our time and more intentional and purposeful in every interaction, we can overcome the drawbacks. Let’s explore how we can leverage the hybrid environment to our advantage to foster better communication and create a more engaged workforce. First, we want to share some of the common challenges that Shana highlighted in her article.

What Gets the Wires of Communication Crossed?

As noted in the blog, there are six challenges that often cause the wires of communication to get crossed which include:

#1 – Proximity Bias

This obstacle occurs when on-site staff receive more information than those who are off-site. The imbalance typically leads to confusion or a lack of awareness about projects or priorities. It may even cause off-site personnel to feel disengaged when they recognize the disconnect.  

#2 – Silos

It’s not uncommon for more disconnects to occur when people have less face time. Individual contributors or teams in different locations may simply have their heads down and be working toward their goals without pausing to think about who else needs to be involved.

#3 – One-way Traffic

Sometimes in hybrid workspaces, managers and leaders get in the habit of pushing out information without identifying channels to receive input as well. When communication flows only one way, staff may hesitate to raise new ideas or feel uninspired to contribute.

#4 – Media Misuse

With so many channels and messaging apps available, it can be challenging to choose the right option. Individuals could end up sharing updates on media that are not well-suited to the message being delivered and create confusion or misalignment.

#5 – Lag Time

Especially in larger organizations where employees are working in different locations, time lapses between messages are a real challenge. When collaborators are not able to interact in real time, it can disrupt workflows and cause unintended delays.  

#6 – Style Differences

Misunderstandings commonly arise because people prefer to give and receive information differently. This challenge applies to ANY work environment, and it can be even more pronounced in remote spaces. That’s because body language cues like facial expressions or tone may be removed from virtual media, leading to a greater likelihood of misinterpretations.

Let’s explore how we can mitigate these challenges by highlighting the tips and strategies that Shana showcased in her blog post.

Tips and Strategies to Improve Communication in the Hybrid Workplace

#1 – Understand Employee Preferences

Start by talking to your direct reports and respective teams about their preferred ways to communicate. This includes identifying the channels that work best for them as well as the delivery and style that best supports the ways they like to receive and process information. 

Better understanding individual preferences allows leaders to share information effectively, while targeting individual needs which leads to more effective communication and outcomes.

#2 – Define Guidelines

Setting rules of engagement supports groups in limiting proximity bias, breaking down silos and reducing the misuse of media. Collaborate with staff to discuss how best to share updates, discuss new ideas or address ongoing day to day changes. By determining when to use what channels as well as who needs to stay in the know, leaders can empower their people to interact more efficiently and effectively. Also, be mindful to set timelines for responses and feedback to help keep things on track and to encourage accountability of deliverables.

#3 – Balance Digital and Face-to-face Media

Often in a hybrid environment, email or chat becomes the default form of interaction. In many instances, digital channels are great technologies to use, and face-to-face communication is also essential for team building and performance. Seeing people’s expressions as well as hearing their tone helps to reduce confusion and creates emotional connection. Be sure to strike a balance and remember that face-to-face does not always have to be live. Recording short videos can be a great way to provide updates without having people in multiple time zones working extended hours.

#4 – Promote Honest Dialog with Feedback Loops

Make sure that your interactions and communication do not become one-way streets by establishing channels and preferred ways to receive input and feedback. Part of this recommendation starts by ensuring the communication guidelines are established to allow everyone to share their insights and feedback and agree on the most appropriate channel or mechanism to share their perspective. Additionally, as leaders we must role model the right behaviors and showcase active listening skills in all our interactions. You will get more engagement and feedback from your people if they feel heard.   

#5 – Conduct Post-Mortems or Debriefs

I personally love this recommendation as there is so much value in conducting a post-mortem or debriefing discussion after an initiative or project is completed. In these discussions, we can celebrate the wins or successes and it is also a learning moment as we like to call them. 

A post-mortem or debriefing session is where we come together as a team to discuss what went well, what could have been improved upon and what the learning is that we are taking forward (or do differently). In some instances, the output may relate to silos or inefficiencies in communication. By conducting a post-mortem or debriefing session, we can work through how we will mitigate these moments moving forward. Plus, this process encourages open two-way communication and will foster a learning culture within the organization.

There is no doubt that strong communication enhances productivity and serves as the foundation for a more connected, engaged workforce. 

What Are Your Thoughts?

Thank you, Shana, and the Emergenetics team for sharing this powerful article on improving communication in the hybrid world of work.  

We want to hear what your thoughts are on this topic? What tips and strategies do you have that are working for you? We would love to hear from you. Reach out and send an email to me at joanne.trotta@leadersedgeinc.ca or call me at 416-560-1806.

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