Never mind tapping people on the shoulder - the future of work needs to focus on both getting things done and respecting people’s time. Liking the office is not a problem at all, and will be the way forward for millions of people around the world. But it’s not enough to want the office because it’s easier to jump into conversation with a coworker - chances are that coworker has work to do. That said, going from all-remote to hybrid remote doesn’t mean we should force people back into the unproductive, collaboration-overkill environment we used to work in.
Hybrid is an umbrella
It’s important to state that “hybrid remote” has multiple structures and forms it can take. Where all-remote is a fairly clear concept in terms of people working without a central office, hybrid remote companies can arrange themselves in many ways:
- Distributed: The entire team works in designated locations, but each location is in a different area.
- Flex / Work From Anywhere days: The office is home base, but on specific days you can work from any location you choose.
- Work From Anywhere policy: The office can be a home base if you choose, but employees have total freedom over where they work.
- Some Office, Some All-Remote: This two-structure system means some employees will never set foot in an office.
The common thread in all hybrid companies, though, is you can’t guarantee everyone will be in the office at any one time. That means communication structures can’t be based on in-person conversations. In this article, we’re exploring how systems should change - and how voice is the best way for hybrid remote companies to communicate regardless of structure.
In fully distributed companies, voice breaks the location barrier
Everyone has a designated work space, but those spaces are all over the place. Different team members could be in different countries or timezones, and the chances of a casual run-in are basically zero.
Why voice wins: Voice breaks the location barrier without removing the conversational nature of an office. Everyone has their working spot, but voice means you can more easily communicate with folks no matter where they are. The automatic documentation of voice also means you can send something around the world without the hindrance of early morning meetings.
With flex days, voice provides continuity
If you’ve got Work from Home Wednesdays in your company (or any other form of this “flex” policy), this is your category. These types of arrangements were fairly well known pre-COVID, but are now becoming more favorably looked upon by companies in post-COVID plans (even the ones that hate remote work, like Netflix).
Why voice wins: Voice provides continuity. In a flex environment, you can easily fall into the trap of communicating one way in the office and then the entire thing going to crap on your location flex day. Voice systems make sure that you smooth out the wrinkles and can plug into the office environment even when you’re not there.
Working from everywhere? Voice means never having to ask where
This kind of company is probably the most freeing for employees, yet at the same time can be wildly confusing for individuals. Is Greg in the office? Not today? Oh, cool. What about Jennifer? Still traveling and working remote? Got it. You may still need to show up at the office for critical meetings and pre-planned events, but otherwise the business has to structure itself so work truly can be done anywhere.
Why voice wins: Voice makes it so you never have to figure out if someone’s in the office - you just do your work. This is helpful not only from a productivity perspective but also from a “making your work-from-anywhere policy genuine” perspective. If you don’t set up legitimate ways to communicate when someone isn’t in the office, that policy is just some ink on paper.
With some office and some remote, voice bridges the gap
When you’ve got two types of employees - some office, some remote - an issue arises where you have two “information highways.” Unfortunately, this creates the worst of both worlds in hybrid remote work. You not only have the disconnection and isolation of remote work, but you have the constant bother of “tap on the shoulder” meetings.
Why voice wins: Voice bridges the gap between people talking in an office yet still being inclusive of remote workers. Documentation is automatic and remote workers can easily access voice tools. On the other hand, the conversational nature of voice means you can easily send voice notes in an office or record live conversations so remote workers can chime in later.
When hybrid, go voice
When developing a hybrid remote environment, don’t assume you can leverage old office ways simply cause some employees will be in the office. At best you’ll be irritated and at worst you’ll destroy your culture. That said, hybrid remote is a fantastic way to offer more flexibility and location freedom (while reducing costs from lower office needs). The key to successful hybrid remote working environments, though, is making sure communication systems are thriving and inclusive - which is what voice can offer.