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How to create a good experience of hybrid working from a comms perspective

By Nicola Winn
October 21, 2021

“I’m sick of these four walls, shall we get together?”

“I need to read the room properly again. I need to feel where people are really at.”

“I can only do proper creative stuff when I’m actually with people, let’s meet up.”

Sound familiar?

Then you find yourself in a meeting room with 4, 8, 10, 12 other people . . .

Oh, and some will be online too . . . as they have Covid, someone in their house has Covid, it’s school pick up time, they’d already got four other meetings booked in that day . . .

Welcome to hybrid working! It’s here to stay.

Over recent weeks, being out and about with clients, their boards and leadership teams has given me insight into how different organisations are navigating this new set up.

And whilst, at Creative Bridge we switched to a virtual office set-up, and agile working, before Covid was an everyday word, now it’s become the only way to do things. The world has cottoned on to its beauty.

But as we are morphing into something new again, we need to do it on the right terms – the terms that put people first.

This looks like giving people choice and influence over their lives, doing what’s best for real connections and relationships, protecting the planet and respecting views about what safety looks and feels like to each, and every, individual.

So how can we embed these into our hybrid working approach, and use effective comms to make it a positive experience for all?

Well, here’s my takeaways so far…

  • Set expectations in advance
    1. Communicate the option of how people can take part upfront, to give people choice
    2. Make sure people know what they need to do in advance if they want to be physically present (such as necessary protocols – lateral flow, temperature checks etc). This demonstrates your respect for other people’s safety and sets expectations for others on this too
    3. Enable people to experience the connection we’re all craving but still feel safe by undertaking an effective, but not soul-destroying(!) risk assessment
  • Invest in smart technology
    1. Make the experience more dynamic for those online with a 360-degree microphone and camera to track voices around the room. I found this also helps to avoid interruptions as everyone is able to read the room equally
    2. Enable all physical participants to see online participants in real time by ensuring there is a large screen in the meeting room
  • Engage inclusively
    1. Create space for introductions – exactly as you would if everyone were in the room – to show each person their presence is valued
    2. Make sure your host/presenter is online (but muted – as the central mic picks up their voice) even if they are physically present – to effectively facilitate both engagement online and in the room
    3. Invite engagement from those online first – to ensure their views are heard
  • Plan the experience
    1. Ensure handouts in the room are mailed to those online – and in advance – to enable an equal experience,
    2. Consider how breakout sessions will work – will you mix online and offline or use online rooms and offline groups separately? I found keeping them separate worked best, but it will depend on circumstances and numbers
    3. Be clear about how breaks and meals will work for those online? There are plenty of ways of getting deliveries sorted these days (and I’d still steer clear of shared buffets for now)

Oh, and if you are about to head back to a meeting in real life, perhaps the most important things to remember are:

  • You need to think about what you wear from the waist downwards
  • You will feel more tired at the end of the day that you might ever imagine
  • It will be lovely to give and receive hugs.

So that’s it…my experience of the new world of hybrid working so far.

Do share how it’s going for you and your organisation in the comments.