Hybrid working will demand leaders develop new communication skills

hybrid workingKeeping on top of communication barriers in the business world can feel like an endless game of Whac-A-Mole, especially now in the new era of hybrid working. The usual culprits are well-known by now: patchy WiFi connections, crashing computer programmes, cloud syncing issues, important emails sneaking into spam folders – the list goes on. All can impede our ability to get the job done.

However, good workplace communication goes beyond equipment and solutions. Even when the technology works perfectly, employees and employers can still cross wires. This can lead to crumbling lines of communication and growing mistrust. Worryingly, Ricoh Europe’s research found that leaders aren’t seeing eye-to-eye with workers across the majority of European organisations. Attitudes are split on hybrid working, company culture and workloads, making ‘two-tier workforces’ a real threat.

To narrow this widening gap, employers need a thorough grasp of their employees’ experience at work. Genuine engagement – via a third-party survey or regular cross-organisation meets – is vital for ensuring everyone is on the same page. Failing to address the communication breakdown may even be impacting a business’s long-term output, contributing to the “Great Resignation” phenomenon. How can business leaders tackle this?


Focus on building trust while remote working

With hybrid working here to stay, business leaders need to trust that their people can get the job done from anywhere. But it seems employers are unwilling to take that leap of faith. Our recent study found that a mere 35 percent were confident employees could work effectively from home. That’s despite most office workers reporting their bosses trust them more after a year of working from home, according to research conducted in March.

But employers’ concerns about the hybrid approach seem unfounded. Less than one-in-five (19 percent) business leaders say that productivity has decreased since the transition to remote working. This mismatch highlights the need for businesses to move away from traditional mindsets and rebuild trust and lines of communication across the company.


Create a culture that works for everyone

Opinions remain divided on company culture, too. The office has always been the undisputed hub for nurturing and improving workplace culture – and this will continue long into the future. But some employers are burying their heads in the sand when it comes to facilitating a sense of culture across a hybrid workforce. A fifth (20 percent) think company culture will take a hit while employees divide their time between home and office working, despite 62 percent of employees believing company culture has not suffered at all during coronavirus restrictions.

Organisations need to invest time and effort understanding workforce concerns to ensure that no-one is left behind when working remotely. The key elements that create a strong organisational culture – a sense of purpose, vision, creativity, close knit teams, collaboration, and an outstanding employee experience – should be extended to everyone, wherever they are working.


Get to grips with employee workloads

Perhaps the most serious communication breakdown has occurred when it comes to grasping employees’ workloads. Employers vastly over-estimate the amount of time workers spend on tasks that deliver real value to customers, while employees say they are bogged down in less impactful work. The majority (69 percent) of employers believe their staff spend up to 180 minutes each a day on high-value activity, compared to the 73 minutes that employees estimated when asked a similar question nine months prior.

Employers’ over indexing also has a knock-on impact on important budget allocation. For instance, one-in-four say they do not have the budget to invest in the tools and technologies needed to improve efficiency. This will disappoint most office workers who expect their employers to provide them with the right tools to perform to their very best. By taking the time to listen to employees and understand work patterns, organisations are better placed to make decisions which have a real impact on productivity.


The solution? Communicate to rebuild trust

Businesses leaders need to communicate better with their people to close the perception gap and learn how to best support employees. Initiatives such as regular hybrid town halls, anonymous staff surveys, and regular updates can provide better insight into employee pressure points. This will help organisations to equip their people with the right tools they need to make collaboration with colleagues, customers and management seamless across a hybrid workplace.

Not only will dedicating this time to improving communication help encourage greater productivity and quicker problem solving, but it will also put businesses in a much stronger position to unlock growth. So, when those communication Whac-A-Moles rear their heads in future, businesses will have the speed and agility to knock them swiftly on the head, hit a high score and emerge victorious.