The shift to hybrid work brings both opportunities and challenges for organizations and employees. With some team members in the office and others working remotely, it can be difficult to foster cohesion, collaboration, and productivity. That’s where etiquette comes in. Following certain rules of hybrid etiquette can help create an inclusive environment where all team members feel respected, engaged, and able to contribute their best work, as I tell my clients when helping them determine their hybrid work norms. I got more clarity on this topic when interviewing Liz Wyse, Etiquette Advisor at Debrett’s, and Sof Socratous, Head of North West Europe Sales, Hybrid Work Solutions, Poly, HP.
Be Considerate of Everyone’s Situation
In a hybrid meeting, some participants may be clustered in a conference room, while others dial in remotely. Those remote workers are more likely to experience distractions or technical difficulties. Meeting etiquette requires consideration and patience for everyone’s unique situation.
If you’re in an office, avoid side conversations or multitasking that remote participants can’t join. If you’re remote, speak up if you’re having trouble hearing the discussion or need to mute momentarily. Announce at the start of the meeting if you have any issues, like being in a public place. The goal is to create a level playing field where no one feels like a “second-class citizen.”
Be Fully Present and Engaged
It’s tempting when you’re just a box on a screen to check your email or phone during a meeting. But that’s extremely rude and unprofessional. Remain focused on the discussion at hand, listening attentively and looking at the camera when speaking.
Avoid activities that make noise or show you’re distracted, like rustling papers or clacking on a keyboard. Bring your full attention and participation to virtual interactions just as you would for in-person ones.
Put Extra Effort into Self-Presentation
In the office, you show up neatly dressed in professional attire. At home, it’s easy to get casual, but resist that urge. Remote participants should maintain the same level of polish and professionalism on video as their in-office counterparts.
Dress business formal, tidy your background, use proper lighting, and check your framing in the camera. This demonstrates respect for your colleagues by looking pulled together. It also ensures you don’t experience “video fatigue” from constantly seeing yourself disheveled on screen.
Speak Slowly and Leave Pauses
Without the benefits of body language and other in-person signals, virtual discussions can easily become chaotic. Everyone needs extra seconds to parse what was said and jump into the rapid flow.
Speak a bit slower than your natural pace, pausing frequently to allow space for remote participants to interject. If you’re remote, don’t be afraid to jump into a lull in the conversation. The occasional awkward silence is better than you not getting to contribute at all.
Use Available Tech Thoughtfully
Certain tools can help level the playing field for remote participants. For example, cameras that show each person individually on equal sized tiles, even if multiple people are physically together. Noise-canceling headsets remove distractions both for you and colleagues.
Employers should provide professional equipment like this to employees for optimal hybrid meeting experiences. Don’t take the tech for granted though—you’re still visible on camera and need to remain engaged.
Lead with Empathy and Patience
Adapting to hybrid work requires empathy, patience and understanding from everyone. In-office employees need to be sensitive to the challenges remote coworkers face. Remote workers should proactively speak up about what they need to contribute effectively.
There will always be hiccups with muting, connectivity, talking over each other, and more. Maintain composure and good humor when minor issues arise. If major ones occur, like frequently dropping from calls, consult with IT experts to find solutions.
Set Policies Thoughtfully
Organization leaders shape etiquette and culture through the policies they implement. Consider hybrid needs when setting expectations around meeting practices, work schedules, communication norms and more. For example, required in-office days could land on a non-commutable date for some remote team members. Make policies flexible and inclusive. Also provide hybrid work training to managers and encourage respectful, compassionate leadership.
The shift to ongoing hybrid work means rethinking not just logistics and operations but ingrained cultural habits. With conscientious etiquette practices, organizations can bring all employees together equitably. Thoughtful hybrid policies coupled with empathetic leadership ensure everyone feels valued, included, and able to excel in this new blended work environment.
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Image credit: Moose Photos/Pexels
Originally published in Disaster Avoidance Experts on Jun 1, 2023
Dr. Gleb Tsipursky was lauded as “Office Whisperer” and “Hybrid Expert” by The New York Times for helping leaders use hybrid work to improve retention and productivity while cutting costs. He serves as the CEO of the boutique future-of-work consultancy Disaster Avoidance Experts. Dr. Gleb wrote the first book on returning to the office and leading hybrid teams after the pandemic, his best-seller Returning to the Office and Leading Hybrid and Remote Teams: A Manual on Benchmarking to Best Practices for Competitive Advantage (Intentional Insights, 2021). He authored seven books in total, and is best know for his global bestseller, Never Go With Your Gut: How Pioneering Leaders Make the Best Decisions and Avoid Business Disasters (Career Press, 2019). His cutting-edge thought leadership was featured in over 650 articles and 550 interviews in Harvard Business Review, Forbes, Inc. Magazine, USA Today, CBS News, Fox News, Time, Business Insider, Fortune, and elsewhere. His writing was translated into Chinese, Korean, German, Russian, Polish, Spanish, French, and other languages. His expertise comes from over 20 years of consulting, coaching, and speaking and training for Fortune 500 companies from Aflac to Xerox. It also comes from over 15 years in academia as a behavioral scientist, with 8 years as a lecturer at UNC-Chapel Hill and 7 years as a professor at Ohio State. A proud Ukrainian American, Dr. Gleb lives in Columbus, Ohio. In his free time, he makes sure to spend abundant quality time with his wife to avoid his personal life turning into a disaster. Contact him at Gleb[at]DisasterAvoidanceExperts[dot]com, follow him on LinkedIn @dr-gleb-tsipursky, Twitter @gleb_tsipursky, Instagram @dr_gleb_tsipursky, Facebook @DrGlebTsipursky, Medium @dr_gleb_tsipursky, YouTube, and RSS, and get a free copy of the Assessment on Dangerous Judgment Errors in the Workplace by signing up for the free Wise Decision Maker Course at https://disasteravoidanceexperts.com/newsletter/