Team Communication

As the workplace becomes a hybrid where employees work both from home and office, communication has become a key factor to make it all work. Dictionary.com defines communication as “the imparting or interchange of thoughts, opinions, or information by speech, writing, or signs.”

It further defines effective as “adequate to accomplish a purpose; producing the intended or expected result”. Putting it together, one can define effective communication as “imparting information through various means that is adequate to accomplish a purpose or produce the intended result.”

Effects of poor communication

Poor communication can seriously impact the team’s performance and employee morale. When team members don’t understand the team’s goals and their specific roles, it becomes very difficult for everyone to work together to deliver results. This can lead to misunderstandings, conflict, missed opportunities, poor morale and high turnover. Studies have shown that ineffective workplace communication can cost companies an average of $420,000 per year.

Poor communication problems are compounded in a hybrid workplace. Some of the common problems in a hybrid workplace include:

  • Inter-team communication is diminished.
  • Us vs Them mentality.
  • Relationships between coworkers become very formal.
  • There is a leadership bias towards those who are in the office rather than those of WFH.

According to a study done by The Economist Intelligence Unit, the responses received from executives, managers, and junior staff members alike highlighted several key areas where communication breakdowns in the workplace have major consequences for business as a whole:

  • 52% of employees said that poor communication leads to higher stress levels.
  • 44% of employees reported poor communication causes failure in completing their projects.
  • 31% of employees said poor communication causes them to miss their performance goals.
  • 20% of employees in poorly communicative work environments said that they experience obstacles in innovation.
  • 18% of employees report that poor communication leads to an increase in lost new sales opportunities.

The following best practices can be used to improve collaboration in a hybrid workplace:

  • Rally the team around tech to leverage the digital communication platform you are using like using screen sharing to discuss information that needs to be visually presented.
  • Create opportunities for chit-chat/casual team building.
  • Overhaul the meeting format by following best practices to make meetings fair to all, strictly adhere to meeting start and end times, and halt meetings when someone experiences technical difficulty.
  • Encourage communication between teams by holding company wide meetings or ones with more than one team.

Right leadership skills

Key to make all this work is leadership. Without the right leadership skills team collaboration cannot succeed.

Gallup research demonstrates the impact of leadership communication on employees at work:

  • 7% of U.S. workers strongly agree that communication is accurate, timely and open where they work.
  • 26% of employees strongly agree that their manager’s feedback helps them do better work.
  • 22% strongly agree that their leaders have a clear direction for the organization.
  • Four out of five start looking for a new job when they get negative feedback from a manager.

To alleviate this all leaders must have the following soft skills.

1. Ability to build trust

Leaders will have to work extra hard to ensure remote workers don’t feel left out of important conversations or decision-making, which can erode trust. Leaders must know all their team members personally and make sure their contributions are appreciated on a regular basis.

2. Inclusive leadership

Feelings of exclusion are magnified in a work environment when team members are not physically together. Leaders have to make a sustained effort to create an inclusive environment. Leaders must be self-aware to make sure they treat all team members equally irrespective of their physical location. Diversity should be celebrated, and leaders must encourage participation and development at every level of the organization.

3. Open communication

In an office environment making small talk and being physically accessible creates opportunities for open communication between team members and leaders. This is harder to do when team members are dispersed. Calendaring virtual watercooler breaks, proactively checking in on team members one-on-one are some ways in which open communications can be fostered in a hybrid environment.

Creating a successful and flexible work culture

Work culture plays a critical role in the success of a hybrid workplace.

In a recent Deloitte survey of 1,000 white-collar workers, 94% of respondents said they would benefit from one thing: workplace flexibility, in the form of remote work and flexible hours. They cited the top advantages of such flexibility as “less stress/improved mental health” (43%) and “better integration of work and personal life” (38%).

This hybrid work culture needs to foster by management keeping in mind the following considerations:

  • Priority should be placed on outcomes rather than the work process. The work process may need to be flexible as employees may work from home and office on different days of the week.
  • Stress individual accountability as it is not possible to constantly supervise people working from remote locations.
  • Be selective when hiring to ensure the right type of employees are being hired who can work independently most of the time.
  • Employees should be advised that they should set up a designated work area at home to minimize distractions.
  • Employees should be provided with communication and collaboration tools to make the work experience seamless, irrespective of the location.

Impact of technology on team communications

Establishing good communication is one of the crucial aspects that determines the success of a small business, especially in today’s competitive market.

In an analysis by Global Workplace Analytics, businesses will have 25%-30% of their employees working from home by the end of 2021. With this, they must find ways on how to improve communication within a team despite the remote setup. Technology plays an important role in small business communications.

Some of the advantages that technology has brought to small businesses and their communication processes include:

  • Real-time communication to speed work processes through chats instead of slow emails
  • Connecting with people working remotely which is especially important in today’s hybrid work environment
  • Increasing collaboration opportunities by providing tools to easily share information
  • Reducing office costs by establishing virtual offices
  • High communication security as today’s communication tools is based on secure, cloud-based technology
  • Improved customer relations though quick and accurate responses to customer queries
  • Wider customer base by being able to service customers all over the world
  • Maximized employee engagement

Choosing the right technology for team communication

We have come a long way from using Windows programs on personal computers to using apps on the cloud (desktop and mobile). Cloud based apps make it easy to access and share information from anywhere at any time. Likewise internal communications have steadily migrated from slow emails to instant chats.

Messages now come from chats, emails, calls, shared documents and even social media. Each messaging medium has its own app. While certainly messaging has become richer, it has also become overwhelming. All these separate apps create information silos that are painful to bridge mentally.

It is important to select the right technology for team communication, so these information silos are eliminated, and time wasted in searching and the consequent stress removed.

9 best internal communication tools and best practices for small businesses

It is clear that effective communication drives productivity, employee engagement and faster profitable growth for the company. It is also important that the right technology be adopted for communications that do not create information silos.

Here are 9 best internal communication tools that can be considered:

While adopting technology goes a long way in promoting effective team communications in businesses, it is also important that the technology is complemented by communication best practices. Here are 9 best practices for effective internal communications.

  1. Free and uninterrupted internal communication
  2. Avoid communication silos
  3. Use a unified communication tool
  4. Facilitate remote working
  5. Don’t lose sight of the big picture
  6. Use social tools in workflow
  7. Avoid email overload
  8. Provide seamless access to cloud documents
  9. Reduce unnecessary meetings

How to improve collaboration in hybrid teams

Though remote work has been in existence for a long time, it is only during the current pandemic that the larger shift to remote work happened. According to Gallup surveys, when the lockdowns hit in March 2020, 31% of US employees worked from home some or all of the time. A month later, it increased to 70%. Remote work gained currency in 2020 after it was proved through various studies that productivity either stayed the same or improved during the lockdown. Now, even after the pandemic comes to an end, some 50% of the workforce is expected to work from home for at least part of the time.

But there are many situations where employees need to come to the office and the hybrid work model provides a perfect combination of both on-site and remote. In this blog, we’ll share some ideas to manage collaboration in hybrid teams and hybrid working etiquette.

1. Create a uniform work culture

One of the best ways to boost collaboration in hybrid teams is to create a uniform work culture. When it comes to rewards, promotions, pay hikes etc., people who work from home should also get an equal opportunity as their counterparts who work from the office. Most of the time, people who work from home are overlooked as they are not visible to the top management even though they might be putting in extra hours of work.

2. Use cloud-based tools

Another best way to increase collaboration in hybrid teams is to provide access to cloud-based tools so that your employees can access it from any location. As face-to-face meetings are slowly becoming a thing of the past and 95% of the workforce are keen to use online business collaboration tools instead of in-person meetings, you need a cloud-based tool like Clariti that can be accessed from anywhere.

Clariti is a SaaS-based office messaging software that provides integrations with all the major cloud storage drives such as OneDrive, Google Drive, Dropbox, pCloud and Mega. So, when you are working from home you don’t have to worry about carrying all your files from work. Once you integrate your drives with Clariti, you will have instant access to all your files anywhere, anytime.

3. Centralize all communication in one platform

Most organizations use multiple apps for their day-to-day work and communications. The number of software apps deployed by large firms across all industries worldwide has increased 68% over the past four years, reaching an average of 129 apps per company, according to an analysis by Okta Inc.

This growing trend leads to information silos and increases the time involved in searching for information. McKinsey reported that employees spend 1.8 hours every day—9.3 hours per week, on average—searching and gathering information. This is a serious problem that affects your productivity and work-life balance.

Another great way boost collaboration in hybrid teams is to have a unified communication system like Clariti that combines all your communications from emails, chats, calls, documents in cloud storage and to-dos in one app and arranges them based on topic or context. So, whenever you want to refer to any conversation or file, you can retrieve it in a few seconds.

4. Don’t bombard the team with messages

A study points out that on average, each Slack user sends more than 200 messages per week and there are power users who send 1,000 messages per day. A common grouse against these tools is you can get stuck in long and never-ending group chats that demand your attention 24/7.

It puts pressure on you to be online & available all the time. Also, since team members mostly use channels and not specific topics, context gets lost, and information gets buried. With a deluge of messages and notifications, you will end up losing important information that can have serious implications for your work. So, limiting the messages in channels or using an asynchronous communication like Clariti is key for boosting collaboration in hybrid teams.

5. Make the most out of audio/video calls

There is no doubt that emails and instant messaging are indispensable, but audio and video calling can offer more. Companies must make sure that their employees have access to audio calling and video conferencing tools to augment collaboration in hybrid teams. Audio calling and video conferencing are great substitutes for face-to-face meetings where your workforce can collaborate instantly and share thoughts in real-time. This is a great way to reduce misinterpretation or miscommunication that can happen when employees are not physically present in the same location.

6. Make time for fun

In the office, employees will get a lot of opportunities to chat with their colleagues. In the hybrid work too, team leaders should create opportunities for teammates to mingle freely with their colleagues. Managers should make sure that remote teams don’t miss out on celebrations like birthdays, company events and get-togethers. Employees who are working from remote locations should also be participating in the same fun activities as their counterparts who work from the office.

Managers should make time for after-work chats where remote employees can discuss things that are happening outside their work lives. Creating informal channels where employees can talk casually and get to know about each other is key to enhance collaboration in hybrid teams.

7. Address gaps in skills

Companies use a lot of tools for collaboration and most of them assume that their employees will be able to handle these tools without training. Some companies provide training to team leaders only and ignore other employees.

To make hybrid collaboration effective, organizations must ensure adequate training is provided for their entire workforce to make them digital-ready. Companies should also conduct a skills gap analysis to find out areas of weakness and address them effectively to make collaboration in hybrid teams seamless.

8. Remove collaboration hurdles

In the hybrid work environment, since the employees are working from various locations, they may not have the right infrastructure to make collaboration effective. Different time zones, slow Wifi connections, and poor audio/video quality are some of the challenges they will be facing.

Technical issues on both the hardware and software sides are a major challenge for collaboration in hybrid teams. To manage the unique dynamics of hybrid workspaces, companies should pitch in and ensure that everybody has access to the right tools and technologies. Many companies have started providing cash allowances for their employees to set up home offices.

Conclusion

It should be clear now; effective team communications play a big role in the success of any enterprise and especially for small businesses. In the current era of hybrid work culture, right leadership, best-in-class integrated internal communication tools and proven best practices are a must-have for small businesses to survive and thrive. This trend is accelerating, and all small businesses must hop on board asap.

The bright side of the pandemic is it is forcing the entire world workforce to experiment, try new ways of doing things and develop new collaboration skills that will hold them in good stead for the rest of their career.

Remote collaboration cannot be learnt overnight, and it is an art that has to be mastered over time. The team leaders and managers are still learning how to manage teams and their remote workforce. In the coming months, teams will learn hybrid working etiquette and managers will learn how to manage their hybrid workforce more effectively. The most important thing the top management can do is show their teams that they’re deeply committed to making a hybrid workforce successful and meaningful for everyone.

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Frequently Asked Questions

In a hybrid workplace, effective communication is key to keeping staff connected and on the same page. As such, it’s important to set up clear channels of communication and regularly review these with team members. Video conferencing should be used as much as possible for face-to-face contact, while also taking advantage of instant messaging services for quick and easy contact with remote colleagues.  

Moreover, asynchronous forms of communication such as emails or discussion boards can provide opportunities for team members to discuss shared goals in their own time, when working remotely. Scheduled reviews between managers and staff should also be held regularly to ensure that feedback can be communicated in an appropriate and timely manner. Implementing these practices will help maintain strong workplace relationships and keep communication open, clear and efficient in a hybrid work environment. 

Working in a hybrid environment is an increasingly popular option for many companies due to the flexibility it provides for employees. In order to collaborate effectively, both the remote and on-site employees need to be aligned with the same goals, communicate regularly, and stay connected. Scheduling regular meetings via conferencing technologies can help ensure that everyone is on the same page and working toward a common goal.  

Furthermore, utilizing virtual project management tools allows teams to remain organized while also promoting transparency within the collaborative efforts. Ultimately, collaboration in a hybrid working environment can result in a variety of successful workspace solutions that provide increased accessibility and efficiency while still upholding a high standard of work.

The hybrid workplace, which is a combination of working remotely and in the office, can have a positive impact on team collaboration. It opens up a variety of communication channels, such as video calls and instant messaging, that let teams connect regardless of their geographic location. With more ways to collaborate with each other digitally, members will be able to come together to tackle complex projects faster and more effectively. In addition, the hybrid workplace allows leaders to optimize employee schedules while taking into account individual needs and preferences.

With a flexible work setup that meets employees’ different learning styles and work capacities, managers can create an environment where productivity is optimized, and progress is measured based on outcomes rather than hours worked. Ultimately, the hybrid workplace has been shown to foster greater camaraderie among team members who are not only linked by the same mission but also enjoy working flexibly on their own terms.

Collaborating with a hybrid team can be both rewarding and complex. Effective collaboration requires open communication, clear goals, and mutual respect. For the best results, start by setting expectations for the project or task at hand. When everyone gets on the same page from the start, it prevents unnecessary backtracking and improves team dynamics.

Technology such as video conference calls, instant chat messages, virtual documents, and project management tools allow remote members of the team to remain connected even when in different locations. With these tools in place, break down tasks into achievable goals that assign deadlines and accountability to each team member; don’t forget to celebrate each milestone together! Investing the time to ensure that both remote and onsite members are respected equitably will keep morale high and collaboration successful.

Teamwork and collaboration are essential skills for career success, as they allow people to take part in a project involving brainstorming, finding solutions to problems, or even working towards a common goal.

Three important skills for successful teamwork and collaboration include communication, listening, and compromise. Good communication is necessary to make sure everyone is on the same page. Moreover, listening enables us to hear different perspectives and develop creative solutions.

Finally, compromise allows team members to adjust their own ideas in order to reach an agreement tailored to everyone’s interests. By developing these key skills of collaboration, individuals can create successful teams that achieve great results.

Successful collaboration requires active participation from all parties involved. Taking initiative is instrumental in ensuring that the intended outcome of a project can be achieved in a timely and efficient manner.

To ensure effective collaboration, there are five main strategies to consider practicing; firstly, being mindful of active listening, utilizing open communication, fostering clear roles and expectations, allowing for equal input and feedback opportunities, and implementing strategic decision-making. Through enacting these components, projects can be effectively managed with optimal results achievable by all team members.

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