Communicating in the hybrid world
There is a consensus that work will never really be the same as it was pre-pandemic. A majority enjoy working from home at least some of the time and aren’t willing to go back to commuting for 2-3 hours a day, every day. And numerous businesses have seen how productive their staff can be at home in a way they had never believed was possible; a level of flexibility that wasn’t considered possible before, will likely be the norm going forward.
However, with the new hybrid working models being trialled, there will be communication problems and these will impact the careers of many.
I was recently speaking to a young executive who is frustrated that in the past year they have been overlooked for several opportunities by the very person who keeps telling them to raise their visibility.
This executive works for a multi-national company where all of the staff were working from home and has embraced hybrid working for now and going forward. What hybrid working will really look like has yet to be decided, but initially head office have returned with different teams in the office on different days, so the building is never full and it will be more difficult to be “seen” by others.
They and their colleagues are finding this new world much more difficult to deal with than when we all worked in the office or all worked from home; suffering from both FOMO (a fear of missing out) and a fear of pushing themselves on others.
It’s a problem that many working mothers, the recipients of most flexible working to date, have been dealing with for years and one I think we will all have to get used to over the next year, in one form or another.
The fear of missing out manifests itself in several ways. When working from home you worry about what is happening in the office, you worry about the conversations you are missing and that you aren’t always top of mind when new projects come up. You’re sure that others know things that you don’t, and you fill in the spaces; making assumptions about what others know or are involved in.
Meanwhile the fear of pushing yourself onto others means that you don’t contact someone because you assume they know you have an interest in the project already; or you don’t include them in the call as they might see it as a waste of time. You assume that others will see your contacting them as either an intrusion or as pushy so you think it’s better to wait for them to call you.
And there really is only one solution to addressing this problem … stop assuming you know what others are thinking … because you don’t!
The chances are that you’re not being talked about at all when you aren’t there and therein lies the problem. You don’t want to be shouting “me, me, me” at every opportunity but if you want to be visible, you do need to be thought about when you aren’t there. And only you can make sure of that.
So, how do you make sure that you are visible in a hybrid world at work?
- Remember that different people like to communicate in different ways. Take some time out to work out who likes what approach and make sure you use their preference whenever you can.
- Ask to be included. Tell the other person that you would like to be included in the project or next meeting … because the chances are, if they haven’t asked, they have assumed it’s not your role or you aren’t interested.
- Use all the technology available to you. If there is Zoom or similar provided for you to be able to have face to face meetings online then use them. Don’t turn your camera off in the full team or company meetings. That’s exactly when you should have the camera on – you literally need to be visible!
- Speak whenever you can. It can be daunting, particularly on-line but raise your hand and speak up as often as you are able. Again, if you want people to think of you when you aren’t there you need to remind them of your skills when you are there. Even if you don’t have anything new to add, you can support a colleague by agreeing with them and highlighting the value that they have added to the meeting.
- If you know a conversation is going to be difficult, try to arrange to have it off line and face to face. If you are unable to both be in the office at the same time, perhaps you can arrange to meet them near the office for a coffee or a walking meeting.
Flexible working takes more effort from you and your manager. As a manager you need to think about all those who report into you and how best to communicate with each of them. But as an individual you need to take responsibility for your career and how the next few months and years turn out.
No one else is going to care … out of sight, often really is, out of mind!