So, how’s it going so far, being back in the office?  Is it all sparkles and sunshine?  Or is it a bit of a grind and with rumbling dissatisfaction amongst some quarters?  My conversations with clients across a number of industries and geographic regions this month have focused almost exclusively of the value of bringing people together in the office, and the challenge which hybrid leaders everywhere face when it comes to getting it right.  Here are 3 of the biggest mistakes (let’s call them regrets or learnings shall we, to be a bit more positive), that the experiences so far have revealed:

1.          A ‘Tell Rather Than Involve’ Mentality

The default human reaction to change is consistent; we worry as human beings about what we might lose.  So, as our teams consider doing battle with the commute, and let me be clear, some of our employees can’t wait to get back to the office, the mistake to avoid is issuing edicts.  ‘You must’/ ‘You are required’/ ‘You have to be’ etc.  Why do I say that?  Because whilst I fully appreciate that organisations have large, expensive buildings which have sat largely empty for several years, and the commercial need to bring people together for lots of good reason is utterly valid, the opportunity here is to involve our people in working out how to make coming into the office really work for them.  That way, our people will want to come in often and are invested in getting the maximum benefit from it.  Stephen Covey is often quoted as saying: “no involvement means no commitment”.  Asking our teams to contribute ideas and suggestions to the new operational rhythms and routines which will make working from home and working from the office actually – well, work – means trusting and empowering them to work out what the frequency and format should be.

2.          A Lack Of Rigour Around Technology Used In Hybrid Meetings

Who can even remember how to turn on the conference room technology in the office, let alone use it?  Given the extensive enhancements in enterprise-wide conferencing platform technology – the need to upgrade our kit at the office is essential.  The most common mistakes include inadequate audio capability, so the remote audience can’t hear those who are gathered together.  Remote teams are pretty well sorted with microphones/headsets at home, but the office hasn’t caught up sufficiently quickly.  If we can’t be heard, then who cares?  The remote audience will just get going with some emails.  Camera angles and being visible when sat in a meeting room is also really important – especially if we want – and we should do – to see our colleagues who are dialling in online. 

3.          A Failure To Realise That Better – And Different – Communication Skills Are Needed

We meet to have high quality conversations, make decisions, seek commitments and agree actions.  We don’t meet to confuse others with lengthy complicated slides which no-one understands, do emails and ignore each other for hours at a time.  There’s too much of the latter, and not enough of the former going on in business today.  A hybrid meeting (where people are present in person as well as dialling in online), requires a fundamental shift in our communication skills.  There is far more complexity to navigate, two different audiences to manage, plus the glorious unpredictability of technology and so our chairperson skills and technology management skills increase to meet these challenges.  Brilliant, hybrid communication skills drive equitable, high value, timely and relevant conversations in the hybrid environment, and enable real-time tools such as chat, polling, annotation etc. to work for us, not against us.

Until next time….

Sarah Brummitt