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Navigating communications in a hybrid workspace

The modern working environment has seen an explosion of different communication tools, as organisations look to facilitate remote working, while taking advantage of new digital developments.

It’s not unusual for employees to communicate on several different platforms throughout the day.

They may swap between traditional methods such as email, phone and face-to-face meetings alongside digital channels such as Teams, Zoom, Slack and WhatsApp.

For new-to-role or aspiring managers looking to engage their people, build meaningful connections and develop a professional brand, the myriad of channels can cause chaos.

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Forgetting Facebook: how Dishoom rebuilt internal comms

Keeping internal communications open in times of crisis


A work in progress

Adapting to the hybrid environment remains a work in progress for many.

Faced with Covid-19, most office-based businesses transitioned to allow for remote working. 

People were discovering Teams and Zoom calls for the first time, but they were doing so with colleagues they knew and trusted. 

Today, as companies continue to bring in new employees, it’s crucial they equip them with the skillset to operate and connect with people in this hybrid world.

Younger generations joining a hybrid working environment, with little or no experience of an office setting, face a significant skills gap, particularly when it comes to communication.

Generations who are more comfortable with instant messaging for example, will tend to use this as their main form of communication, meaning emails stack up and workload for this group can be prioritised based on who instant messages with a request fastest.

Is this a fault of the generation? Or a fault of the manager failing to recognise communication preference?


Transferable skills

Of course, there are some attributes that should play into any form of communication.

These transferable skills largely relate to emotional intelligence and self-awareness.

When we undertake training for aspiring leaders and managers our focus is on helping them understand how they are received by other team members.

We also draw on our experience with behavioural intelligence to focus on how certain attributes such as listening, testing and understanding, bringing people in and admitting when you may have made a mistake, as this can benefit communication and relationships.

The challenge with many digital platforms is that these skills can be harder to utilise. 


What’s the solution?

Giving new-to-role or aspiring leaders the skills to adapt their style to the platform at hand, while embedding best practice within an organisation, can help to address these challenges.

From a training perspective that means equipping their team members with the skills to ‘read the room’.

For example, an email is as much a paper trail as it is a comms tool, yet WhatsApp is transactional.

Consider what outcome you want to achieve from your communication, before determining your platform - are you looking for the thumbs up reaction or do you need more?

If presenting on Teams, there are certain quick wins that can make a huge difference. Look at the camera, sit on a stool to avoid hunching, allow time for others to ask questions and respond.

Key points include:

  1. Use appropriate tone: this can set the mood for the conversation. Use a friendly and professional style when communicating with colleagues. Be respectful and courteous.

  2. Respond promptly: business communication platforms are designed to facilitate quick communication, so it's important to respond promptly. If you cannot respond immediately, let the person know when you can reply.

  3. Use emojis and GIFs sparingly: emojis and GIFs can be a fun way to add personality to your messages but use them sparingly in a business context. Too many can make your messages seem unprofessional.

  4. Ask your team how they like to communicate during the day: do short sharp messages suffice? Or do they enjoy reading email trails for additional context?

  5. And, if you need to call: provide some insight into what the call is about. They could be in the flow of something or feel unprepared and anxious without context.

Organisations can also prescribe best practice to address some of the challenges that new platforms raise. For instance, if managing a remote team, schedule a weekly catch-up that’s focused on team building than the transactional business-as-usual communications.

By doing these things, organisations and their people can build relationships while navigating the range of communications channels we are now expected to use at work.

Morgan Burn is principal consultant of OnTrack International