Two weeks ago we posted a blog on “How to Humanize the Hybrid Workplace.” One point we raised was to build communities, not just workflows. Because an active hybrid work community increases energy, engagement, and satisfaction, and reduces stress and down-time. So today, let’s take a deeper look at this. How can we build community with our people scattered everywhere?

1. Create a centralized asynchronous space

91% of employees agree that the office plays an important role in feeling connected to colleagues. Where your people cannot be in the office, you need to create an office-like environment for them online. This must, somehow, mimic or even exceed the benefits a normal office brings. This is a critical first step. A rich digital space allows for more flexibility and creativity than brick and mortar. You can change the look and feel of the virtual office as often as you like. You can use a variety of underlying tech, including, someday soon, virtual reality.

2. Make community easy

People socialize casually before or after an in-person meeting. So consciously schedule the same for your virtual meetings. Ask people to come ten minutes early and stay ten minutes late. Provide ample breakout spaces to allow one-on-one or group conversations. Whether it’s meeting software or the hybrid work platform itself, ease of use is critical. Make your tech fun and as simple as possible to avoid tool fatigue. Tech is supposed to make our lives better, not add burdens. Setting up and logging in should be quick. The more integration the better, to avoid the lost productivity of context-switching. Add a dynamic option like Spatial Chat where you can. Do whatever helps make things more effective and more interesting.

3. Make community a goal and requirement

Don’t just offer options for connecting. Make connecting mandatory. Just one or two short touchpoints each week can radically increase your team’s cohesion. Fifteen minutes twice per week can be enough. Help your team remember everyone they’re working with. Find ways to make community a measurable OKR by encouraging and rewarding peer support. Insist on everyone keeping their cameras on. This avoids the distraction of multi-tasking. And everyone seeing one another creates a much more collegial environment. Highlight the successes of the hybrid program itself – not just the hybrid teams. Share freely via newsletters, internal social media, and by speaking up before or during meetings. 

4. Keep community fair and balanced

If your company is spread across multiple time zones, don’t favor one over the other just because your headquarters is there. Distribute the time of meetings and get-togethers in a way that takes account of each team member. Be aware of saying “Good morning” to someone who’s already entered evening. In general, speak to your listener, not from your own little silo. One way to even up the virtual space is to ask each person to log in individually rather than groups sitting together. This avoids biasing remote employees to feel isolated.

5. Keep communication consistent

Schedule your community’s communication. Don’t leave it to ad-hoc accident. Try engaging the team once each day with questions, challenges, requests for photos and stories, anything that creates a sense that we are sharing life. Host regular “teas” once a week to get together and talk about anything but work. Or have “Teaching Tuesdays” where one department each week talks about their latest developments. How much is too much? If you think you’re communicating too much, it’s probably just right. What matters most is that your people stay in sync.

6. Make everything hybrid

Don’t leave the remote workforce out of physical events. If you’re hosting a live lunch speaker in the building, consider not only finding a way to stream it for those at home, but also send them the meal too, or give them a gift card to order it themselves. The water cooler no longer has to be a happy accident. Hybrid work offers the opportunity to make every interaction intentional.

7. Provide appealing content

The digital office makes offering information, education, and transformation much easier. Whether synchronous or asynchronous, gather, save, and offer a variety of both professional and personal content to empower your hybrid workforce. This could include information about new company initiatives, health tips, and competitions. Use this content as a way to conversations. The point is to drive up engagement, and not just vertically.

At Innovation Minds, our AT THE EDGE Employee Experience Solution for Hybrid Work offers one way to achieve everything on the above list, and much more. Reach out to us to schedule an appointment for us to show you how it works.

Michael Lee, SVP Strategy & Marketing, Innovation Minds