Hybrid working, change and the role of Internal Communication

16 March 2021
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7 tips

Now that a large number of people have spent the last year working from home, it is looking more and more likely that most organisations will not return to the old situation of having everyone in the office at the same time. Employers therefore need to talk to their employees about what works best for them, and to draw up a policy to cover this. The many studies that have been conducted into post-Covid work patterns have found that a large proportion of employees would prefer to work in a hybrid form – a combination of home and office working. This change presents new challenges for every organisation, but especially so for those that are already implementing some other form of change; they need to be extra alert about the impact on this of moving to hybrid working as well. Read our 7 tips for HR, Communication and leaders.

  1. Share the story about hybrid working
    Switching to a hybrid working model requires an organisation to do two things. The first is to create an appropriate policy on hybrid working. The second is to factor the consequences of increased remote working into both normal, routine change, and into any special change assignments or programmes that may be going on. How? Adjust your change story accordingly. Make it connect with the experience and sentiment of employees who are now working in the new hybrid form. Internal Communication has an important role to play in developing this story.
  2. Adjust your communication tools and channels to the world of hybrid working
    Working from home requires organisations to make structural investments in online communication. Invest in a well-functioning intranet or app that supports interaction and ensure that your system for holding meetings online works as it should. Make sure that communication tools and messages also surprise and boost employees in between all the video meetings, just in the same way that a conversation with a colleague at the office can provide a nice distraction. Make sure that your communication tools can be listened to during a walk, for example, so the employee can get away from her screen for a while.
  3. Help people to get and remain connected
    People typically look for connection, pride and togetherness. In a hybrid-working environment in which employees can no longer meet colleagues spontaneously, it becomes even more important that Internal Communication seeks out the stories that connect. Stories about business milestones that back up the strategy, to demonstrate that an ongoing change is progressing well. Stories about the work or experience of colleagues, to promote mutual connection. And stories that show what the organisation does for society, to boost employees’ sense of purpose. These stories are important at any time, but they matter even more when people are often working remotely. Make sure you have a good content calendar and publishing cycle, and make sure you keep the information cycle high. And if you can only manage one or two stories, don’t bother – you’ll only cause damage.
  4. Make sure top management is visible
    Management is an anchor for employees, and when people are working remotely, a visible management is all the more important to strengthen the connection between employees and the organisation. Ensure top management are seen regularly, using a means and format that suits them. Also ensure a good balance between updates sent via communication channels and digital events for all employees. Key here is to continue to invite employees to think along with management or to take part in a dialogue. This strengthens the feeling that employees are taken seriously. It also strengthens the feeling that the employee is not alone.
  5. Focus on your leaders
    Remote working tends to make the connections within teams stronger while weakening the connections with and across the rest of the organisation. This makes it crucial to facilitate and equip leaders so they can communicate about hybrid working and the changes that go with it. As part of this, ensure you strengthen the management network to support the connections between departments. Distance promotes fragmentation and it requires extra effort from managers to ensure inter-departmental collaboration is maintained.
  6. Pay attention to organisation-wide activities
    Remote working makes stimulating mutual involvement and a sense of belonging extra important. Organise activities, in whatever form, for the entire organisation at the same time. As well as having a substantive element, the event should include time and space for social activities that strengthen the corporate culture. Through organisation-wide meetings (whether digital or not), you promote involvement in the organisation and its objectives, you show appreciation for your colleagues and their efforts and you stimulate contacts outside your own teams.
  7. To measure is to know
    It is important in a hybrid work model to keep a finger on the pulse of how employees feel about it. You do this in dialogues within teams, but also by including it as a topic in the organisation-wide measurements you conduct. Measure to what extent employees feel good about the work situation, how well they can work well at home, how they feel about the team spirit, how they experience being managed remotely and whether they feel motivated to contribute to organisational objectives and change ambitions. Then improve the pain points.

Would you like to know more about hybrid-working communication and how to maintain employee involvement in a hybrid-working model?

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Bea Aarnoutse
strategy director & partner

+31 6 21 844 402