Communicating from a distance: Futureproof your business for hybrid working |

The past decade has seen a rapid increase in the adoption of remote working practices around the world. These new ways of working range from the increased number of people going freelance, to those engaging with aspects of the gig-economy or adopting flexible working patterns through their current employers.

For example, The UK’s Office for National Statistics (ONS) predicted in 2019 that 50% of the UK workforce will have adopted remote working in some capacity by 2020 [1], with Forbes predicting the same trend for the US [2].This trend was being driven primarily by the interplay of factors including the shift in attitudes around remote working and the increased adoption (and quality) of networking software.

As the world responded to the challenge of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, it’s clear to all that this was the biggest driver accelerating the adoption of remote working. However, with the vaccination program rolling out globally, organisations are now asking their employees to either return to the office full time, continue to work from home or, more commonly, they are adopting hybrid working practices. As a result, businesses will have to adapt their policies and people engagement approaches again, to make this work for them.

The pros and cons of wholly remote working

Remote working has of course been viewed as a way to keep the costs of expensive office space down, whilst also ensuring access to a wider pool of talent than that limited to a specific geographic region in which an office is sited. In addition, we know that when individuals are given the flexibility to adopt remote working practices, they often proved to be more productive, more innovative and experience greater well-being [3].

However, while many of your workforce will consider continuing to work remotely to be positive, or even a benefit, it is something that will also be viewed with some degree of trepidation by others. There are those that enjoy the social side of being in an office – the interaction, the banter, being able to exchange ideas and collaborate face to face [4].

Determining your people's hybrid working communication styles

Understanding your people’s communication styles will be critical to maximise the benefits presented by implementing hybrid working practices. Get it right and you will engage your workforce and broaden your talent pool. Get it wrong and you could isolate your people and disconnect your best talent from critical projects.

It’s also important to view the potential challenges that employees could face if they struggle to switch off – just as some staff may find it hard to be engaged with work when sited remotely, others will be unable to define and stick to boundaries between work and home life. Understanding communication styles doesn’t just help you keep these employees engaged, it can also help to prevent burnout and work-related stress for those unable to switch off.

Some employees will feel a degree of trepidation when returning to the office for the first time, so it is important that you understand how to communicate with them effectively in order to ensure it is as painless a process as possible. Some employees may need clear guidelines and directions in writing, whereas others will feel better being given all the information verbally. 

Use the Thomas Behaviour assessment to make a success of hybrid working

So, how can you quickly and easily determine someone’s communication style and how it will define their hybrid working success?

If you want to take a scientific approach, assessments like the Behaviour assessment provide an insight into a person’s prevailing communication style. Taking as little as 5 minutes to complete, you can rapidly increase your understanding of how best to communicate with a member of your team, a colleague, or even turn the mirror on yourself and explore your own personal communication preferences.

The Behaviour assessment measures a person’s preferences around four, core behavioural and communication styles:

  • Dominance: prefer brief, direct communication and can be quite assertive
  • Influence: prefer fast-paced, verbal communication and like to verbalise their ideas
  • Steadiness: prefer to actively listen and communicate when they’ve reflected
  • Compliance: prefer communication that focuses on facts and detail

When you’ve identified a person’s preferred style, you can explore how their manager could modify their own communication style to have the best impact:

Your organisation can apply this newfound knowledge of communication styles to the challenges presented by working remotely, or returning to the office after a long period of working from home. When not face to face, what is the best approach for managers of teams to take when communicating with individuals who may be a great distance away from them? How is it different when returning to face-to-face communication? How can teams collaborate when some are in the office and some are remote?

Hybrid working and the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic

While its full impact is still unclear, the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic was the defining challenge to businesses around the world in 2020. In 2021, organisations will have to curate better processes for remote and hybrid working at a faster pace than first anticipated, especially with furlough and other government supports coming to an end in Q3.

A greater understanding of how you, your managers, colleagues and teams prefer to communicate can help with the transition to this new way of working. 

You may have people around you who will adapt to hybrid working more easily than others but communicating the methods they prefer will help you to maintain engagement during these challenging times.