Four New Rules of Presence in Hybrid Workplaces

What does a side glance mean?

When you’re sitting around a conference room, a side glance can convey “Do I have this right?” or “Are you kidding me?”

Meanwhile, when a colleague glances sideways during a remote meeting, they may be looking at their dog who just entered their home office or be warning their teens to turn down the TV.

The rules of body language, how we show up and presence have changed in the hybrid workplace.

So, while the standard rules of presence—sit or stand up straight, make eye contact, and project your voice—still apply in all settings, a savvy professional will learn to navigate the new challenges of the hybrid office.

The idea of presence is to actively encourage trust and engagement in your teammates. While hybrid workplaces offer new challenges, there are four simple things you can do to intentionally improve your presence.

Be intentionally inclusive.

Your professional calendar is more packed than ever. Four out of five remote employees say they are attending more meetings than before the pandemic.

A person with presence will actively remember the two team members who are logging into a meeting remotely, even if five people are in a conference room together. Before beginning a meeting, a sensitive, fully present host will ask their remote colleagues if they can see and hear everyone. They will regularly pause the conversation and check in with remote team members to ask: “Juan and Kara, what details should we add to this report?”

Prepare your environment.

Can everyone see, hear, and participate?

If the technology isn’t working, you can be the one to find a solution. Sometimes that’s as simple as changing the seating arrangement so everyone can participate: “I see that the camera’s not moving today. Let’s all sit on this side so Amit can see us.”

Or, if you are calling in remotely, you can take the initiative to make the meeting more effective: “Hi everyone, I’m only able to see a third of the table. If the conversation moves, would somebody just switch the camera around to the other side for me? Who can be in charge of that?”

If people know that they can see and are seen, they are more likely to bring their best selves to the meeting.

Adjust your energy levels.

As improv actors, we know that presence has everything to do with voice, body, eye contact, and thinking about your audience. We do the same in the business environment – You often need to adjust how you present yourself depending on who you are speaking to and how they are reacting. You want your presence to have the appropriate level of enthusiasm.

For example, I naturally have tons of energy, but if I notice that people are put off by that or it’s a bit too much, then I come in more softly.

And, it takes more energy to be on video than in person. So, you might have to vary your energy level between video and face-to-face interactions.

Reach out.

Because there is an additional step needed to communicate with remote teammates, they sometimes get left out of impromptu conversations that happen in person. Because they’re left out of small decisions and sometimes larger ones, remote workers are less likely to get promoted. This proximity bias continues in the hybrid work environment.

If you are the one most often in the office, make an effort to engage with remote employees. Maybe you can share a coffee remotely via video. Or hang around after a video meeting to chat for a moment. If you are a remote worker, understand that finding connections with your supervisor and teammates is critical. Take time to get to know them, and be intentional about sharing your aspirations with your team and boss.

While the idea of presence has not changed, the way it is executed has changed. Be attentive, be intentional, and you can make your hybrid encounters more beneficial for everyone.

Comments from Karen Hough, Founder and CEO

This article is 100% written by a human named Karen Hough. She is the Founder & CEO of ImprovEdge, in the top 4% of women-owned businesses in the US, a 3-time Amazon bestselling author, Yale grad, wife and mom of three.