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Four Tips For Leading A Hybrid Workplace

How do you lead staff you can’t always see or talk to in person?

Abe’s Audio has been in this space longer than most - we were in the cloud before it was a ‘thing’ in 2005 - but we’re still learning how to do it well.

Leading a hybrid team of in-office and remote staff is challenging, but growing company culture - regardless of where staff are located - is crucial for cohesion and engagement.

Here are four tips we’ve found helpful.

1. Turn the webcam on

One of the best (...and sometimes worst!) things about an office environment is the interaction with people. Let's face it: emails, Slack messages and calls don't capture the same essence as a face-to-face chat. That's why we default to video meetings. In a world that's become more isolated, seeing each other eye-to-eye is becoming increasingly valuable.

When we see each other, our interactions are different. We connect on a deeper level, picking up on all the subtle nuances of human communication. It's a powerful way to show others that we genuinely care about them and are fully present in our conversations.

If we include both in-office and remote staff on a Zoom call, we usually have every participant join at their computer (rather than huddled together in one room) and treat each as ‘remote’. This sets a level playing field for all staff and helps to maximise engagement.

2. Talk, don't email

When conflicts arise, we avoid trying to solve them through email or written communication. Nothing good comes from typing furiously while feeling angry. So instead, we talk it out.

Human communication involves so much more than words on a screen. It's about understanding tone, body language, and emotions.

So, the moment we sense any conflict, we set up a video meeting (or a phone call/Slack huddle at the very least.) Most problems can be resolved within minutes. And if things escalate (a rare occurrence), we clearly understand what we’re dealing with.

3. Communicate clearly (but not too much)

Think about a traditional office setting where everyone is physically present. It comes with its own set of challenges like colleagues constantly knocking on your door or interrupting you at your desk for "just five minutes" (that never ends up being just five minutes).

In the hybrid office, we face a different version of this challenge, with constant emails, Slack messages, phone calls, and other messages adding to the noise. Communication is vital, but over-communication can make people feel like they’re drowning.

Here's what we do:

  • Use Slack DMs for urgent communication or live conversations.

  • Use email for non-urgent communication or something requiring a considered response.

  • Hold weekly department meetings via Zoom for specific discussions and team updates.

  • Hold brief fortnightly all-staff meetings by Zoom, where we allow every department to share a 2-minute update and take questions.

  • Avoid sending constant blanket emails to all staff.

We’re obsessive about customer service and have a dynamic, fast-paced workplace. But while we want to respond to and serve our clients swiftly, we’ve had to learn where it’s OK to slow down.

4. Embrace energy levels

We all have those moments during the day when our energy levels take a nosedive.

Usually, our instinct is to push through because a deadline is looming or the emails are banking up. And sometimes we have to. But approaching our low energy levels with a friendly mindset is important. Instead of mindlessly blinking at their screens, we encourage our team to get up, stretch, say hello to their pets (yes, we employ many dog lovers!) or grab a coffee for a few minutes.

By listening to their bodies and giving themselves small breaks where needed, our team can recharge and return stronger and more focused.

A focused team is always a better team.

Leading a team you can’t always see in person can be challenging. But if you can ensure your staff are valued, communicated with and feel part of the journey, it shouldn’t matter where they are based. 

Inspiration from Carey Niewhof.

Abe Udy

Abe is the founder of Abe's Audio and started the business in 1998 from his bedroom with an old computer, fax machine, dial-up internet, and a microphone in his wardrobe. Today, he leads a team that provides audio production and voice overs to media, agency, eLearning, video & creative clients around Australia and beyond.

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