The hybrid workplace is set to replace the traditional office model in the post-pandemic world. This means that teams will need to learn how to communicate differently now that everyone’s not always in the same place, at the same time.
In this video, I explore the basic principles of a human-centric workplace, how it is different from the traditional office set up, and how you can adopt these principles in your small business to help teams communicate, no matter where they work.
What’s different in the current set-up?
The difference in the current office set up goes beyond logistics—it’s a different mindset altogether.
What mattered in traditional, office-centric workplaces was a warm seat or an employee’s physical presence. That’s because the traditional workplace places a premium on spontaneous meetings, structured hours of operation, and visibility of employee activity—all of which require employees to be present in-house.
On the other hand, the hybrid workplace does away with spontaneous meetings, structured hours, and employee visibility. Instead, hybrid workplaces follow the tenets of a human-centric workplace design. In these work environments:
- Performance is measured by outcomes, instead of employee visibility
- Intentional collaboration is expected to be normal, instead of spontaneous meetings, which tend to be disruptive
- Flexible experiences are encouraged over structured hours, because human-centric workplaces acknowledge there is life outside of work and that people work differently
In hybrid workplaces, employees are allowed—even encouraged to schedule their work day, as long as they can fulfill their responsibilities and deliver results. Transitioning from a traditional workplace to a hybrid workplace will require many changes, mainly how you communicate with each other. However, as tempting as it is to turn to digital tools and communication apps to solve this issue, it is important to first understand and frame the problem. Setting up digital project management tools like Asana or communication platforms such as Zoom or Slack is not enough. The transition requires more than a change in logistics—it requires a shift in mindset. We need to focus on the right things so we can set up a human-centric workplace that fully supports better communication.
How to communicate better in a hybrid workplace setup
- Take the lead by defining the new normal
You need to set the tone by defining communication expectations. Identify which scenarios will require in-person meetings with all hands on deck. Identify which scenarios will require synchronous or immediate communication. And then train everyone to learn how to communicate asynchronously, which should be the communication norm for daily information exchange.
Be intentional on how to teach your team how to communicate—set the example. Show them, by example, how asynchronous communication will look like, how teams are expected to respond to queries, raise issues, or collaborate asynchronously, and which channels or platforms asynchronous communication will take place.
It will take some time for most team members to get used to the new communication methodologies. However, so long as issues and work are being addressed promptly, there’s no reason to expect team members to reply to you immediately.
- Keeping everyone on the same page to make sure that everyone’s on equal footing
Human-centric workplaces acknowledge that people will work differently. Some people are comfortable and productive when working away from the office or outside traditional office hours. Yet, employees still feel comfortable and productive when working in an office environment. There is no problem at all with where or when or how employees choose to work.
It becomes a problem when an organisation falls back into the mindset that a warm seat in-house is an indicator of productivity and drive. The in-office employee bias affects the morale of the entire organisation, because it affects promotions and advancement opportunity decisions for all employees.
CVS, a US-based retail pharmacy chain, decided to overcome this bias by amplifying remote worker voices. What this means is that CVS instituted changes in meeting practices by intentionally engaging remote workers at the top of the meeting. They are prioritised in that they are asked to provide status updates and share ideas and feedback before giving the floor to in-office staff.
- Work on developing new social skills
How we communicate depends on context. In the absence of non-verbal cues and the advantage of face to face meetings in the office, remote communication seems a little bit more challenging, but it doesn’t mean that it’s impossible.
As a leader, it just means you need to be more intentional on how you communicate with your team members. Checking in through Slack or any business messaging platform can work wonders in developing rapport and engaging someone. Having a weekly chat, even for just 15 minutes, may work for some employees to nurture relationships between and amongst team members.
But we should also consider that people’s communication styles and preferences vary. The goal is to find a rhythm for leaders to engage their team members to nurture trust and a good working relationship.
The hybrid workplace is here to stay. Leaders have the capacity to make the hybrid environment work for their team—and the key is in learning how to communicate with everyone.