As our teams, workplaces, and policies continue to evolve as part of a concentrated effort to better support hybrid employees, our modes and means of communication have to evolve too. Communication is the backbone of any successful organization - from the way that employees communicate with each other and the tools they use to dictate everything from team dynamics to collaboration best practices to remote employee workflows. Without taking the time to establish communication guidelines at your organization each employee will create their own individual practices, which can quickly lead to disarray and miscommunication— especially for hybrid teams.
Speaking of hybrid teams, hybrid communication is no longer reserved just for those employees who split their time between the company office and their home office. Whether your workforce is composed of primarily in-office, remote, or hybrid employees your organization will benefit from a focus on hybrid communication.
Any communication that connects an on-site worker with a remote worker is hybrid communication. In 2021, the emphasis on hybrid communication best practices in the workplace has been reinforced by the return to office post-COVID-19. With many companies around the world navigating the shift to remote work and now the shift back to the office all together, there has been a global emphasis on the need for hybrid communication. Without establishing company-wide communication standards, employees who are new to remote work (and for those employees who joined the workforce in 2020 and have only known remote work, are new to in-office work) may be left to feel unsupported or stranded in their efforts to connect with their distanced teammates.
Hybrid communication has never been more prominent than it is today. However, this shift didn’t happen overnight. There are many companies that have been fully remote and have allowed their employees to work on hybrid and flexible schedules long before COVID-19 and the great remote work migration. This is great news for companies who are experiencing this shift now, because instead of carving out the path for hybrid communication standards they can learn from the hybrid experience of companies who came before them and adopt the policies and protocols that are known to successfully support hybrid teams.
But remember, just because a hybrid communication policy is working for another organization doesn’t mean it will be a cure-all for your company. To create sustainable standards of hybrid communication at your company, take the time to survey your hybrid employees and collect data to gain a deeper understanding of the specific flavor of support they need and want. The makeup of your hybrid teams— how many employees are fully-remote, how many are fully-in-person, and how many are somewhere in-between thanks to flexible scheduling— will dictate the communication best practices you instill at your company. Without taking the necessary time to ensure your practices are aligned with the needs of your employees you could find yourself drafting policies that make the lives of your hybrid teams harder instead of easier.
To determine which hybrid communication strategies will work the best for your teams, ask them questions such as:
Once you’ve gathered and assessed your employee’s responses to these questions you can begin crafting hybrid communication best practices that support their experiences and don’t distract from their daily responsibilities, regardless of where they are working from.
When it comes to hybrid communication (and let’s face it, all workplace communication in general) there are two modes: synchronous and asynchronous communication. Every high-functioning team uses a unique combination of the two in order to stay connected while they work and collaborate from anywhere.
First things first, synchronous communication is any communication that happens in real-time. Like:
In a typical office setting— one where all employees work on-site all of the time— the majority of interpersonal interactions are synchronous. However, hybrid teams will need to primarily schedule their synchronous communication moments, especially when it comes to communicating with remote teammates. Because of the added scheduling element, synchronous communication is not as popular with hybrid teams than in-person teams, but that doesn’t mean that creating synchronous moments isn’t worth it for distributed teams.
To get the most out of your synchronous communication, keep these best practices in mind:
The flip side of the communication coin is asynchronous communication AKA any communication that does not happen in real-time. Like:
Asynchronous communication is a popular alternative to real-time interactions because it allows for more flexibility and freedom for remote workers. For teams that skew remote-heavy, the asynchronous communication strategies you use can make or break the productivity of your team. Without taking the time to put sustainable systems in place, hybrid teams may find themselves scrambling to connect with one another or being totally out of sync on projects.
To ensure that no messages get missed and everyone on your hybrid team feels heard, begin enforcing asynchronous communication best practices such as:
Remember, asynchronous communication is a gift for hybrid teams. The moment it begins to feel like a burden your best practices and strategies need to be readjusted.
As the world outside of your office walls continues to change, so do the employees who work within them (metaphorically of course— offices aren’t tied to location anymore). Regardless of whether or not your hybrid teams are new to the workstyle or have been working in the form for years, there are many things that can be done to ensure they have all the tools they need to succeed.
To set your hybrid teams up for success:
When building a hybrid culture, it requires more intentionality since culture isn’t built by in-person camaraderie in today’s world. Incorporate inclusivity into your company culture and create opportunities for socialization, employee resource groups, and giving back to the community that are accessible to all employees.
In addition to creating communication strategies for your hybrid teams you will also need to establish some collaboration guidelines to lead your flexible employees toward successful hybrid accomplishments. Remember, collaboration and communication go hand in hand, draft your collaboration strategies along with your communication best practices to ensure you are creating a seamless hybrid work environment for your team members.
To get you started, the top collaboration strategies for hybrid teams include:
One of the biggest hurdles companies face when they are transitioning to a hybrid work model is adopting a new set of expectations for meetings. But the truth is, hybrid meetings are not that different from in-person or remote meetings. Instead, when executed correctly they are a blend of the two forms that give all employees equal opportunity to participate regardless of their location.
To begin running and leading successful hybrid meetings:
Creating an atmosphere and workplace that supports hybrid communication is a necessity in the modern world. To ensure you are staying up to date on all hybrid trends when preparing your office for your newly flexible employees, here are all the Tools for Navigating the Return to Office.