Communication is the key to connection: Five steps to collaborating in a hybrid or remote team

With the ever-changing nature of the pandemic restrictions, companies from all over the globe have had to continuously adapt to new ways of working.

Whether adopting hybrid models, phasing teams back to work or encouraging remote working, businesses have had to remain flexible and ensure that at each stage, they are working in a way that aligns with current Government restrictions.

With the hybrid model and remote working, allowing employees to influence their working hours and location has turned the 9-5 office day on its head. Not only that – it has also helped some companies expand into more markets with the broader acceptance of remote working. 

According to the recent Opinions and Lifestyle Survey, among the positives reported by participants were improved work-life balance and enhanced wellbeing. However, the negatives included the challenges of collaborating remotely and finding it harder to work with others.

So even though flexible working brings many benefits, could it be pushing teams apart, and how do you reconnect as a team?

This question is never an easy one to answer. However, we hope that the following five steps will help you and your team on the way to reconnecting and beginning to work together again.

Step 1: Know that it’s going to be a mixed bag

After almost two years working in a completely different way, it’s understandable that some people want to be in the office (when allowed) to feel part of a team again. But, on the other hand, those working remotely may have seen tremendous benefits from their new setup, including fewer distractions and increased productivity as a result.

Some are comfortable going out in the world again, adhering to social distancing and hygiene measures. Others are hesitant or anxious about being around people at all when the threat of Covid-19 and its variants still, literally, hangs in the air.

And what about employees who must continue to work on-site due to operational commitments? So, while their office colleagues get more choice and flexibility, a lack of understanding can cause resentment.

These differences in opinion can cause frustration, upset, and anger within a hybrid team model. Whether you lead the team or are a part of it, it’s essential to understand that reactions to the pandemic, lockdown and working arrangements will be mixed. A lot of the time, no two responses will be the same.

Acknowledging this fact from the outset can make you more open to honest conversations where you can listen to what the team has to say and support them on their individual journeys.

Step 2: Start communicating (if you haven’t already done so)

Continue, or definitely start, the dialogue with your team to ensure that everyone’s voices are heard and understood.

With the potential for differing viewpoints, think carefully about whether a group conversation is the best format for a discussion with employees. People may be less willing to speak about their challenges in a group, particularly if they all share a very different viewpoint regarding working from home/flexible working. This conversation could be a contentious one, so you must tread carefully.

Set up or encourage, one to one conversations with all employees. Be clear about what you’re going to communicate and allow employees time to prepare their thoughts along with any questions.

Reassure them that the conversation will be a safe space to address any needs or concerns and make sure the conversation is two-sided but weighted toward hearing their views.

Step 3: Be clear about expectations

The recent Business Insights and Conditions Survey found that 38% of businesses expected 75% of their workforce to be at their usual place of work from now on. In comparison, 32% of companies were uncertain about how many would return.

These statistics show a large discrepancy. Some expect things, for the most part, to go back to normal soon. Others don’t know when or how that will happen.

While no one can control the restrictions and how new variants will affect progress, you can control how you communicate with personnel. Though it’s a continually changing situation, the best thing you can do for your team is provide them with transparency.

We encourage you to communicate with your staff every step of the way, ensuring that they know what is expected of them at each stage, as well as being up to date with current health and safety policies and procedures or pending changes.

Step 4: Stay flexible

Though viewpoints on hybrid and remote working differ, there’s one thing we’re all yearning for – to return to some semblance of normality, however that may look.

As the pandemic situation changes, so do people. People who would have never even thought about working from home now see how it benefits their work and productivity. Some people started 2020 with a feeling of job security, only for furlough and reduced working hours to remove that stability.

Each stage of the pandemic so far, and moving forward, has new challenges to face. And because companies are nothing without people, it’s essential to understand that each new challenge will affect people differently and in ways they may not have expected themselves.

By keeping an open mindset and not restricting ourselves to a sentiment of “this is how things are now”, the whole team can remain agile and ready to face the next challenge.

Step 5: Keep communicating

Reported cases of depression continue to rise in the UK. The Opinions and Lifestyle Survey covering 21 April-16 May 2021 found that 21% of adults reported some form of depression between January and March 2021. This figure has more than doubled since the start of the pandemic and keeps rising, showing a 2% increase when compared to November 2020.

As challenges with our population’s mental health continue to rise, a one-and-done approach to communicating with your workforce is not enough.

It helps to keep talking to your team, even when everything seems fine. By giving employees a safe, non-judgemental space to talk about what is going well and what needs to be improved, employees should feel confident sharing any feelings of stress or being overwhelmed before those feelings turn into something worse.

Ready to take the first step in reconnecting your team?

This is a challenging time for everyone, one way or another. The only way we will all get through it is to keep having meaningful conversations.

Transparency, honesty, and clarity of expectations are essential, and if you can maintain those qualities with your workforce, you’re well on your way to reconnection.

At Lindsay & Lang, we can help you start these conversations and develop strategies that bring meaningful, positive, and sustainable changes to your workplace culture. 

Contact our team to learn more about how we can help your workforce reconnect.

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