Key takeaways in this post:

  • Good internal communication creates a sense of community and connection among remote team members.
  • Invest in tools like project management platforms and chat apps (like Slack, Microsoft Teams or Google Chat) to mimic the office experience.
  • Create spaces for casual conversations and interactions, like water cooler chats.
  • Tailor newsletters for remote and hybrid teams. Include relevant and engaging content for all team members, regardless of location.

The pandemic changed the way we work. Many companies have shifted towards a hybrid team model. For healthcare organizations with hybrid teams, effective internal communication can keep remote workers connected and productive.

Before 2020, remote work and hybrid teams were not the norm. Many industries and companies have embraced a work-from-home culture (like WG Content did 20 years ago!). But many people were still commuting to an office every day.

But when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, everything changed. Healthcare marketing, communications and operations teams spent more time on Zoom and Slack and less time in conference rooms and cubicles.

Today, many offices have transitioned back to in-person work. But many non-clinical teams in the healthcare industry remain remote or use a hybrid model.

Even before the pandemic hit, remote work was gaining momentum. A 2023 survey from Bankrate showed that 64% of full-time workers in the U.S. prefer working from home. And a 2023 Pew Research Center report showed that 22 million people (14%) in the U.S. work from home full time.

Remote and hybrid teams are here to stay. Our internal communications must meet the needs of this team structure.

Let’s first review the basics of good internal communications. We love this Forbes article written by BrightMove’s vice president of marketing, Heidi Green.

She says about internal communicators what many are thinking but never dare say:

“They are seen as the ‘ra-ra crowd,’ trying to instill a sense of community and create a culture among workers. They share boring information like benefit options and the latest employee handbook updates.”

But Heidi says that’s not the main role of an internal communicator. The real purpose of internal communications is to present “honest, truthful, transparent communications that all employees can understand and digest, while not upsetting the rest of the executive team.”

Heidi then gives tips for creating a sense of community without “company propaganda.”

We introduced WG Insider, a quarterly communication to better connect with our outstanding, remote, we-do-it-all team.

Do you know what happens when you follow Heidi’s tips? Employees feel respected and cared about. This makes them care about the company. They’ll then reward the company with good work.

*Cue confetti and heart emojis*

Let’s explore three ways to connect with your remote or hybrid team.

The most important thing to understand is that work-from-home employees who engage with their coworkers experience more job satisfaction, positive emotions and well-being.

Use this as a springboard for creating your health system’s internal communications plan that considers remote employees.

Use an online technology that mimics the cohesive office experience

Everybody should use one project management tool.

They can use this tool to complete the following tasks:

  • Communicate.
  • Find information.
  • Post work updates.

Employees should be able to access it from anywhere. If information security is an issue and access to your health system’s intranet is necessary, make sure the resources are there to give every remote employee easy access.

Find a chat tool that gives that ‘water cooler’ experience

Whether at the water cooler or in the break room, impromptu “meetings” and conversations happen all the time in the office. Make sure you allow your remote and hybrid employees to have these convos with chat apps like Slack or Google Chat. Bonus points if the chat tool can integrate with your central project management platform.

Encourage your team to use the chat tool to talk about non-work topics, too! You can set up rooms for the following hobbies:

  • Hiking
  • Cooking
  • Gardening
  • And more

You can also set up a “random” channel where they can post that day’s trending meme.

If you fill your internal newsletter with in-office news and events, will a remote employee bother to read it? Probably not.

Keep remote and hybrid employees engaged with newsletters by including content applicable to any employee.

Here are three content ideas:

  • Organization-wide news
  • Productivity tips
  • Team member features

Consider a newsletter for remote employees. The newsletter can focus on them, including their professional and personal accomplishments and other things they care about.

Include information on the unique challenges of working from home. Encourage readers to share tips that help them stay successful and happy outside an office environment.

Once you have your communication channels laid out, make sure your team knows when and how to use them. Give examples of when it’s appropriate to send an email vs. a Slack message or a text vs. a phone call. Clarify daily, weekly and monthly check-ins and who needs to attend which meetings.

Aside from communication preferences, talk to your team about their preferred working hours so you know the right time to connect with someone or schedule a meeting. Setting these boundaries can be especially important if you have a team stretched across different time zones.

Because an employee is remote doesn’t mean they should miss out on important meetings and check-ins with managers. We’ve all used virtual platforms for years, so there’s no excuse!

Keep up with regular meetings no matter the employee’s location

It doesn’t matter who works in the office or from home. Regular check-ins between a manager and their team are crucial.

These meetings are a time for work-related updates. They’re also an opportunity to provide critical human interaction.

Remote employees can often feel isolated and lonely. Regular face-to-face meetings can ease that feeling of working on a virtual island.

Don’t be afraid to chat about non-work topics during meetings. When you work from home, coworkers don’t pop into your office to see how you’re doing.

Having a manager or teammate call and ask how you’re doing can make a big difference. It makes you say, “Oh, they care!” Remind remote workers they’re valued and appreciated for who they are, not only for what they do.

Ask for feedback from remote and hybrid employees

Avoid having managers use email as their “suggestion box.” Encourage them to schedule face-to-face meetings. During these sessions, they can ask for feedback.

This is how true relationships form. It’s much easier to be honest, truthful and transparent when communicating with real comrades, not strangers.

Rethink your current meeting setup

Remember to look at your existing meeting schedule and adapt it for employees working from home. This will avoid the last-minute scramble to set up a Zoom room or virtual meeting link when you realize not everyone is in the conference room.

Encourage every team member to call in with your virtual meeting platform, regardless of whether they’re in the office or at home. That means everyone calls in from their desks or with their computer in a conference room (on mute to avoid echo). This can help prevent communication issues from having a large group in a conference room and one or two individuals calling in from home.

Building connections and relationships with people you sit next to or pass in the hallway every day can be easy when working in an office. But what about your remote and hybrid colleagues?

The fact is: Honest, truthful, transparent communications and camaraderie depend on more than Zoom calls.

Mail a package to remote workers’ homes

Send a memorable gift and a handwritten note to show appreciation and make a tangible connection. Consider something like useful gear branded with your hospital’s logo.

Bonus tip: On the front of the notecard, print your health system’s logo. Below that, in smaller font, print the system’s mission and values statements. This serves as a soft reminder of what they represent as an employee.

Create opportunities for in-person events

Working from home doesn’t mean you never want to see your coworkers in person.

Ask remote workers to come into the office a few times a year for the following occasions:

  • Informal, friendly chats where you serve donuts or coffee
  • Company events
  • Important meetings

Watch for burnout on your hybrid team

Working at home has plenty of perks — no commute, flexible hours and sweatpants, to name a few. But remote work can also have downsides, and burnout is one of them.

When you work from home, it can be easy to pop into your office for a few emails or finish a report after dinner. Before you know it, you’re putting in 10-hour days.

Office space can also start to bleed into living space, and not having that clear delineation between work and home life can send someone straight to the burnout zone.

Whether you’re a team member or a manager, watch for signs of burnout. Behavior changes are a big sign. Someone may seem more quiet than usual or get frustrated.

You can also watch for performance issues like missing deadlines or low productivity. If you notice these changes, take the following actions:

  • Reach out.
  • Offer to ease their workload.
  • Listen to their concerns.

No matter what format your team takes — in-office, remote or hybrid — improving internal communications comes down to understanding your colleagues’ needs and interests. What excites them about work and allows them to succeed in their role? What keeps them connected to your mission?

You can create a functional, engaged team with these strategies:

  • Ample and consistent communication
  • Effective tools and technology
  • Genuine, personal connections

Before you know it, your hybrid team will be a well-oiled healthcare marketing/communications machine.

WG Content provides expert internal comms support, helping you craft content that engages your workforce and keeps them connected to your mission. Contact us to learn more.

Use the following strategies to improve communications:

  • Establish consistent and open lines of communication.
  • Use effective tools and technology.
  • Strengthen personal connections among employees.

Use these strategies to strengthen personal connections:

  • Organize virtual team-building activities.
  • Encourage regular check-ins and one-on-one conversations.
  • Create opportunities for team members to share personal interests and hobbies.

By fostering personal connections, team members can build trust and rapport with one another, leading to better communication and collaboration.

Use the following tools to communicate with remote or hybrid employees:

  • Video conferencing platforms
  • Project management software
  • Collaborative messaging apps

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