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Hybrid working: digital communication and collaboration
Hybrid working: digital communication and collaboration

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3.2 Hybrid communication and collaboration

As organisations move to hybrid working, communication and collaboration have changed. The opportunities to ask a colleague a quick question across the desk or have ‘water cooler’ moments have disappeared, and new ways of sharing information have developed.

Not only did having to move to remote working at an organisational level change how we worked, it impacted the culture and expected behaviours. Due to the changing rules, everyone was having to continually adapt during the pandemic, often with little guidance from the organisation.

As new ways of working become embedded, organisations are now not only focusing on building a new culture and set of values but also on re-establishing expectations of its workforce, expectations that reflect the needs of individuals, teams and the organisation. In the video below, contributors share their insights into hybrid communication and collaboration.

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The most common tasks requiring communication and collaboration in the workplace are:

  • email/instant messaging/collaboration chat channels (e.g. via Microsoft Teams, Slack, Google Chat)
  • collaborating online
  • hybrid and virtual meetings
  • digital file sharing and storage.

We’ll explore these in detail throughout this section of the course. There are many tools and systems used for online cloud-based communication and collaboration, but their underlying purpose and functionality are very similar. To understand how these work, the article ‘Unified communications (UC)’ [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] from TechTarget (2021) provides useful guidance.

These tasks all rely on ‘digital tools’, and how they are used is central to helping evolve new ways of working. As the infrastructure to ensure these tools meet the needs of the organisations and digital capabilities and skills to use them develop, now there is a focus on how these tools should be used and how you can effectively communicate using them.

Communication is not just the conversations you have in meetings or via email or instant messaging but also how you use the tools; the information you include within them; and how you agree upon the guidelines, processes and polices. This all provides information that enables you to understand expectations and your organisation’s digital culture – ‘the way things are done’ is important.

How you decide as a team to use the comment review function on documents, how to create a presentation, what kind of posts can or should be made on an internal community channel, or verbally agreeing how you will store digital files in your collaboration storage areas are all examples of communication in relation to digital tools.

Remember: your online communication (meeting, chat transcript, recording, etc.) may be stored on a server and only deleted in line with your organisation’s information retention and communication compliance policies. Therefore, when using communication and collaboration channels, consider the most appropriate methods to use, and ensure that any written communication is appropriate for the workplace.

Activity 11 Is monitoring necessary?

Timing: 10 minutes

Read the following article ‘The employee surveillance that fuels worker distrust’ (BBC, 2022), which provides an overview of why organisations have monitoring in place and what may be for legal reasons as opposed to organisational reasons.

Then explore what monitoring your organisation has in place.