3 Tips for Balancing Hybrid Work through Effective Communications header

3 Tips for Balancing Hybrid Work through Effective Communications

3 min read

Daren Finney

Daren Finney | November 28, 2022

In pre-pandemic days, the word “hybrid” probably conjured up the image of a hybrid car. Now it makes most of us think about the way we work. 

Employees may be working on a presentation in an airport on Monday, in face-to-face meetings on Tuesday and Wednesday, and then logging in back at home on Thursday. And, of course, there’s also the beloved “no video” Friday. In other words, hybrid workers can work from just about anywhere. 

That’s a good thing, right? Not necessarily. It can be challenging to set boundaries when employees have the tools to work from any location and at any time. This has led to a disconnect between employees and employers: Finding the right work-life balance.  

Fifty-one percent of workers expressed worry about work-life balance, versus just 23% of employers, according to a recently released Techaisle survey, sponsored by Mitel, of 1,300 organizations from various industries.

While remote workers are more efficient and appreciate the flexibility of working from home, they also put in longer hours, feel more isolated, and experience more burnout than their in-person counterparts, according to a research review by Human Resource Development.

Employers are also challenged with a balancing act: Satisfy their employees’ desires for hybrid arrangements or risk losing their best talent. Fortunately, with effective communication – both face-to-face and through collaboration tools – business leaders and workers can find productive solutions for everyone.

3 Communications Tips for a Hybrid Work-Life Balance

1. Establish employer-employee expectations

One of the most challenging elements of hybrid work hasn’t just been the physical distance between employees and their managers. There has often been a disconnect between their expectations for the process.

Without dedicated face time with their supervisors, remote workers can feel like their voices aren’t being heard. Or worse, it may seem like their concerns are being ignored in favor of their in-person colleagues, making them feel like second-class employees.

Although 50% of organizations offer continuous feedback or assessment to check employee expectations, 26% don’t have such a process yet, found the Techaisle survey. 

Whether their reports are in-person, working remotely, or splitting their time between the office and home, managers need to establish ways for employees to feel comfortable speaking up. Setting up regular one-on-one video meetings or phone calls can help workers feel connected to their supervisors and give them a chance to discuss their priorities.

Employers must genuinely listen to their employees’ needs and find ways to enact solutions in the workplace. For instance, one solution is establishing office hours, so remote workers don’t feel obligated to be online or available outside their regular schedule. They may also need focus time without distractions, so they can finish a project without needing to respond to messages.

2. Build team connections and community

Micro-communications can define remote work – rapid-fire chats to confirm details or brief emails to loop someone in on a project. There’s an expectation of constant availability, but often these interactions lack the same depth experienced by in-office colleagues.

It’s unsurprising, then, that remote work can lead to feelings of isolation. Techaisle found that one of the workers’ top concerns is loneliness. Thirty-four percent of employees are worried about it, versus just 27% of employers.

On the other hand, about 50% of managers and 40% of employees are highly concerned about maintaining company culture and team cohesion. Building a hybrid environment to encourage deeper connections for both in-person and remote workers can resolve feelings of isolation while promoting creativity and satisfaction.

This doesn’t just mean the video happy hours and icebreakers of the early lockdown era. Instead, it’s about making conscious use of interactions to help participants feel comfortable sharing their ideas and personalities.

For example, once a virtual team meeting has officially concluded, the host could leave the connection open to allow for casual discussion, similar to how in-office colleagues might filter out of a conference room. 

What might seem like idle chatter can be much-needed facetime for remote employees. This can help break up a long day of working alone and lead to deeper connections with their team. A little bit of unstructured togetherness can go far in increasing employee satisfaction and reducing feelings of burnout.

3. Acknowledge individual hybrid needs

The entire premise of the hybrid concept is to maximize the advantages of both the office and remote work environments. 71% of hybrid employees felt they had improved work-life balance, and 67% thought they made more efficient use of their time than being either solely remote or in person, found a 2022 Gallup poll.

In-person time is ideal for teamwork and creativity, as colleagues can quickly gather to brainstorm, present ideas, and collaborate on projects. On the other hand, remote work is great for focusing on solo activities and completing personal tasks. 

The balance lies in finding the right mixture of office and away time for the whole team – and acknowledging each person’s different requirements for managing their time.

When in-office workers head home, they usually leave their jobs at their desks. But without the same type of defined space, remote employees often feel like they must work later and respond to messages at any time of day.

Although one of the significant draws of remote work is flexibility, at-home employees must feel comfortable establishing boundaries – and for employers to help enforce them. 

One sometimes-overlooked tool for setting limits is the humble status alert. Workers can set their chat status to options like “In the office,” “In a meeting,” or “Gone for the day” to let their colleagues know if they’re around to collaborate.

Other unified communications solutions to help remote and office employees stay on the same page are asynchronous workspaces where they can work on projects at their own pace, calendar and email integrations so they can figure out times to connect, and secure file and screen sharing to refine ideas together.

Find Balance with Unified Communications

Hybrid work is the new baseline for businesses, and many employees will not consider working for a company that doesn’t allow them to be flexible with their time. But this can look different for everyone, so it’s up to employers to communicate with their workers to figure out what works best for them.

Mitel’s unified collaboration solutions make it easy for managers, employees, and colleagues to find the right balance of communication no matter where they are. Learn how Mitel can help your business shift to a hybrid-first mindset so you can keep your employees happy (and loyal).

Daren Finney

Daren FinneySenior Vice President, Global Channels

Daren brings over 25 years of global sales and channel operations experience and leads Mitel’s global partner organization spanning strategy, program development, and administration.

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