Hybrid work: How to communicate and advocate for yourself

Hybrid work combines the communication styles of remote and in-person work, making it easier for information to get lost in translation and coworkers to feel disconnected.

In some offices, it has created a two-tier system where employees who attend meetings in person have priority over those who are remote, said Joseph Allen, a professor in the department of family and preventive medicine at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City . I have coauthored the book “Suddenly Hybrid: Managing the Modern Meeting.”

“We’re starting to see promotions and raises going to the people who are in-person because they’re showing that they are more devoted to the organization,” Allen said.

Remote workers are also invested in their jobs, but it doesn’t always come across that way since they are not in the office, I added.

Feeling seen and heard are the most important things to making sure hybrid work is the best it can be, Allen said.

One of the most common times people interact is during meetings. Hybrid meetings can be the most inclusive styles of communicating because it allows everyone to connect wherever they are, but there are additional skills needed to succeed, he said.

advocate for yourself

If you are a remote worker or attend some meetings virtually, you are already at a disadvantage, said Karin Reed, CEO and chief confidence creator at Speaker Dynamics, a corporate communications training firm. She coauthored the book “Suddenly Hybrid: Managing the Modern Meeting.”
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In-person employees have a presence simply by showing up while remote workers have to put in additional effort to be seen, she explained.

Turning your camera on if you are a remote attendee of a hybrid meeting is nonnegotiable, she said.

“If you have your camera off, you are at risk of disappearing from the meeting,” Reed said.

Many people choose not to turn on their camera because they feel they need to look camera-ready or have felt fatigued from video calls, she said.

“It’s not about having to show up looking like a news anchor, but rather showing up to ensure that your message can be communicated,” Reed said.

During the meeting, ensure that you are fully engaging in the conversation, Allen said.

It can be easy to check out and scroll through your long list of unanswered emails or get ahead on work, but it’s important to listen to what everyone is saying and add your input, he said.

Don’t be afraid to go off mute and say you have an idea, Allen said. You have to be willing to put yourself out there because you cannot blame the leader for not always calling on you, he added.

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If you find yourself struggling to be heard as a virtual attendee, send a note to the meeting leader prior to the event saying what you want to talk about and asking to please set aside a couple minutes for you, said Celeste Headlee, journalist and author of “We Need to Talk: How to Have Conversations That Matter.”

Additionally, you can go to your manager after the meeting, share what you were struggling to say and ask how you can better insert your voice, she said.

“If you approach it that way so that you’re bringing them in on problem-solving, you’re much more likely to get a positive result,” Headlee said.

Be a better listener

While it’s important for remote workers to actively listen, in-person workers share the responsibility, too.

To begin with, meetings should always start with the remote employees talking first, Reed said. It reminds in-person attendees that people have taken time out of their day to call in while also allowing remote employees to express their opinions and feel like a valued participant, she explained.

Meeting leaders should also designate allies, which is when a remote employee is assigned to an in-person coworker at the meeting, Allen said. When the in-person employee gets called on, they should share their thoughts and then transition over to the remote coworker and ask them if they had anything to add.

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Furthermore, in-person employees should acknowledge all forms of communication, especially if there are remote workers without access to video of the in-person meeting, Allen said.

For example, if someone nods their head in agreement, make sure to verbally note that since some remote employees may not be able to see someone’s body language, Allen said. If the chat feature is being utilized, someone should be in charge of sharing what people are saying and bringing up applicable talking points.

All attendees should also make sure to ask follow-up questions because it has a unique power to make others feel heard, Headlee said.

“Instead of going into any meeting focusing on what it is you’re going to say, go into the meeting focusing on what it is that you want to learn from the other people present,” she said.

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