How Communicators Can Impact Hybrid Work Strategy

June 13, 2024

Work models remain a challenging topic in the workplace. They sit at the intersection of employees’ personal needs and the broader organizational goals of a company. This intersection can create what feels like a tug-of-war between employees and employers, especially when considering a hybrid work strategy.

According to a recent Gallup poll, 54% of remote-capable jobs are hybrid – and that’s how most employees like it. As of February 2024, 60% of employees surveyed say hybrid is their preferred work mode (compared to 7% who prefer to work exclusively onsite).

For these employees, the benefits of hybrid work far outweigh the challenges: they cite improved work-life balance (76%), productivity/more efficient use of their time (64%), and less burnout/fatigue (61%) as the top reasons they’re attached to it. Their challenges – including less access to resources and equipment (31%), less connection to company culture (28%), and decreased team collaboration (24%) – are very real, but pale in importance to the upsides.

Despite these preferences, employers do not always share their employees’ enthusiasm for hybrid work. There are many reasons for this – they may be concerned that productivity will be impacted, for instance, or have a workforce that must do their work onsite (e.g., warehouse employees, retail, lab scientists, etc.).

While communicators might not initially view themselves as influential in shaping work models or hybrid work strategy, the reality is we aren’t powerless. We are uniquely positioned to analyze our organization’s core beliefs and needs and to question assumptions about optimal work practices. As hybrid work becomes more mainstream, here are some ways you can support your company’s exploration of hybrid work — not just by conveying decisions, but also by guiding leadership in making those decisions:

  1. Facilitate discussion. We don’t have to wait for leaders to start a conversation about the company’s approach to hybrid work – we can be proactive and initiate those discussions too. Effective communication isn’t a one-way street, after all, and information shouldn’t flow exclusively from senior levels to the rest of the organization. Communicators who embrace the role of representing the employees they serve can proactively set the tone for conversations about hybrid work."How do we get back to where we were before?" > "What is important to our team? | "How do we get everyone to work the same way?" > "What aspects of community and collaboration are needed for us to succeed?" | "How can we get employees back into the office?" > "How can we inspire and engage employees?" | "How can we get leaders to enforce these mandates?" > "How can we lead differently?"
  2. Offer data and insights. As communicators we manage troves of information that leaders don’t always see, including material that’s relevant to hybrid work. This information ranges from external thought leadership to, more crucially, employee sentiment in the form of survey data, focus group feedback, internal communications engagement metrics and more. Offering up these insights in the service of informing decisions about hybrid work is an excellent way to ensure the employee’s voice is heard and better allow leadership to understand where there may be potential areas of disagreement.
  3. Provide strategic counsel. By combining our organizational knowledge, effective communication approaches and change management best practices, we can bring insights that can help leaders understand that hybrid work shouldn’t be about how things used to be, but instead about how the organization can best position itself for future success.
  4. Shoot for micro-wins. It goes without saying that none of this is a one-and-done process. However, small changes can lead to bigger movements, making it important to act on multiple levels at the same time. Adding a question about hybrid work to an annual survey, for instance, could be an important step toward shining a spotlight on the issue. Featuring stories of employees who are flourishing in remote, hybrid, or in-person roles is another. Small moves like these can help foster the institutional momentum needed to make the bigger changes employees crave.
  5. Optimize the situation. In situations where hybrid is not an option or you know that an upcoming change to the company’s hybrid policy will be unpopular, pull out your communication best practices and work with your leaders to do it right. Explain the change and the rationale thoroughly, including data if it exists; acknowledge concerns; provide employees with the opportunity to ask questions and get straight answers; and highlight flexible options if they exist (e.g., one day a week from home or options to come in and leave early/late), even if they do not exactly match what employees want. Leaders need to understand that the way they communicate their decisions can affect morale, productivity, and even retention, as much as the changes themselves.

These ideas are only a starting point. The shift to a hybrid workplace has brought new opportunities and challenges to the communications landscape that we must address to continue effectively serving our audiences and be successful in our roles. Our interactive ROI workshop “Transforming communication in a hybrid workplace,” can help you reimagine your approach to internal communications support a hybrid work strategy that works for everyone. This workshop and others can be delivered through an online session or onsite at your organization.

Visit our workshops page for details and reach out for further discussion!

Contributors

Jeff Lewonczyk ROI Internal Communication Agency Employee.
Jeff Lewonczyk

Director, Specialist

Jeff is a strategist and award-winning illustrator with a background in theater, music and arts advocacy. A resident of Brooklyn, he directs musical comedies and helps clients connect with their audiences through compelling stories and messaging.

Virginia Stefan ROI Internal Communication Agency Employee.
Virginia Stefan

Vice President, Strategist

Virginia's expertise in internal communications has been honed by her background in publishing and her love of improv. By listening to diverse perspectives and embracing new possibilities, Virginia creates successful communication strategies that engage employees and encourage them to share their ideas.