How to Effectively Communicate in a Hybrid Work Environment
You pause, waiting for an answer. You glance at each member of your team, trying to make eye contact. But what’s the use? Half of them don’t have their cameras turned on so, all you see are white initials in the center of a black box. The others can’t tell that you’re actually looking at them individually, or they do, but they don’t seem to care. You take a deep breath and ask someone specifically to share their thoughts. But the lack of enthusiasm is palpable. You try to stay positive, but even you have to gear yourself up for a Zoom call. Eighteen months ago, Zoom was a lifesaver. A way for you to connect with your coworkers, feel a sense of togetherness, and communicate almost as if you were in the same room. Now, it feels like a burden. You’re used to family interruptions, dogs barking at the Amazon delivery person, and employees trying not to talk over one another. But you’re not used to the fact that it often magnifies your separation and is put on your calendar with the same gusto as a dreaded chore. If you feel this way, you know your team does too. So, what do you do about it? Video conferencing seems like a necessary way to communicate. But what if it’s not?
It may be time to pay attention to three cues that will alert you to the ineffectiveness of your current technology choice. By changing the format in which you communicate you will simultaneously meet the various needs of your team and promote employee engagement and productivity.
1. Cognitive Cues
Video conferencing platforms, such as Zoom, unintentionally create a fight-or-flight response because of how narrow our focus is. Even if your camera is not on, you have a limited perspective watching your colleague through a single box with an unchanging background. This intensified focus for an extended period of time causes many to feel agitated or even trapped. With a desire to flee or become aggressive, your coworkers will be unable to process information correctly. The brain will signal that the information is too complex or too specific to understand. When you notice your employees are unable to process the information through video conferencing, when they would likely comprehend the material in person, it’s time to adjust the medium you’re using to communicate. If you must have a virtual meeting, try sitting outside or increasing the field of vision. Send the information or meeting notes through email or text when possible. This allows your employees to slow down their perceived response time, giving them adequate time to comprehend the material.
2. Psychological Cues
If you feel that your employees are hesitant and refuse to offer genuine feedback, it may be time to change communication platforms. Colleagues who are hesitant to speak up, are disengaged, and appear uninterested often feel disconnected from the organization. This could be due to distrust about leadership, message sensitivity, language barriers, or cultural differences. When employees feel any of these things toward your company, they will be hesitant to reveal their authentic selves which will stifle their ability to innovate and perform effectively. Consider a face-to-face meeting or phone call to connect with employees who demonstrate any of these psychological cues. This will allow you to foster a relationship with that employee, learn more about them, and provide a safe place to give and receive feedback.
3. Physical Cues
Remote workers often feel they are never caught up on their assignments. This concept of feeling time-poor manifests itself in comments like “the agenda is too full,” “we don’t have enough time,” “the pace is too fast.” Verbal cues such as these during a virtual meeting should alert you that the communication platform needs to change. Video conferencing to check in on a project may be counterproductive, eating into the time your employee has set aside to actually do the work. Physical cues also include children running into the room, or a spouse answering a call in the background. This lets you know that it’s time for your employee to shift from work responsibilities to home responsibilities. Conclude virtual meetings promptly and schedule an email or text follow-up in the coming days to make sure everyone is on track.
You will build trust with your employees by paying attention to the cognitive, psychological, and physical cues of your employees. You’ll not only meet their communication needs but foster connection and increase motivation. Motivated employees have the mental and physical capacity to think creatively, work efficiently, and perform better overall. To learn more about our leadership training programs, contact Trinity Training & Development today.