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How to maintain effective communication in a hybrid office environment

Charlie Walker-Wise, Tutor and Client Director at RADA Business, offers some advice…

After more than a year of remote working and virtual communication, offices across the nation are beginning to reopen again, with many taking a hybrid approach to work.

Research published in The new art of business, a new report by RADA Business, finds that many workers welcome this hybrid approach, with 80% of people saying that they want the option to work from home.

Despite this, nearly one in four people at a management level have expressed concern about their ability to perform their best virtually.

Being able to connect with others and communicate clearly, whether in-person or virtually, remains a crucial skill in this new age of working. Fortunately, there are a number of techniques that business professionals can use to maintain their performance in a hybrid working environment.

Eye contact
Whether you are attending a video call or meeting with a colleague in the office, maintaining eye contact when you are speaking to someone can seem challenging, or even feel unnatural. And yet, eye contact is a powerful tool that aids connection. Not only can it help you land your message with impact, but it also shows colleagues that you are listening attentively.

If you are finding it particularly difficult to maintain eye contact whilst communicating virtually, perhaps because you are distracted by your own face on the call or by other applications on your screen, then make a conscious effort to regularly focus on ‘the green dot’. This is the light that usually appears next to your camera when it is turned on. This will help your audience feel like they are being looked in the eye as they are spoken to.

Connection is key
You may feel you’ve missed out on important conversations and even simple casual catch-ups in the office whilst working from home. Hybrid working offers new opportunities to connect and be present within your team, such as stopping by a colleague’s desk for an impromptu chat or getting involved in virtual projects with co-workers from home.

If you are attending a meeting, whether virtual or in-person, make time to greet and acknowledge everyone individually. This shows that you are connected with, and aware of, your colleagues.

Take time to centre
After months of working from the comfort of your own home, returning to the office and working around others may well be daunting.

A study of 1,000 workplaces by RADA Business found that 42% of workers are able to think more quickly when they feel relaxed, whilst 41% feel more confident after relaxing. So if you are feeling overwhelmed by office life or work generally, it’s important to take time to centre.

There are plenty of easy ways you can take time to relax whilst working, whether you are at home or in the office. Making a cup of tea, getting some fresh air and taking a walk are all techniques to help you feel better equipped for managing feelings of stress. Just taking time to focus on breathing out can stimulate a calming response in the body. This in turn can help you to communicate more calmly and effectively with colleagues.

Make the most of your space
As we return to the office, maintaining space and social distance will be at the forefront of many workers’ minds. Whilst social distancing is essential, you can also use this to your advantage – as taking up your space and aligning the body helps you to have greater stability, and feel empowered whilst communicating.

Try this exercise to own your space. Place your feet firmly on the floor, hip-width apart, with your arms by your side. This will help you to assume a confident posture. Then take a moment to become aware of the soles of your feet, and your weight travelling down through them to the floor. Finally, stand up tall, energising yourself away from the floor, releasing any tension from your body as you do so, and allow yourself to feel more grounded.

Make an effort to articulate
Within the new hybrid working environment, there may be times where you are communicating with people in-person and virtually, at the same time. Communicating to two different types of audiences may prove challenging at first, but one way to manage this is with your voice.

Articulating your speech well, so that you are speaking more clearly, helps your message land more effectively. This is particularly helpful for those listening in via video call. Try speaking the days of the week aloud to yourself before a meeting, focusing on the consonants, especially the final ones of each word. This will help to warm up the lips and tongue, so you are ready to speak and, more importantly, ready to be heard.