Best practices to encourage linguistic security in the hybrid workplace

Setting a good example

  1. Actively use both English and French when addressing employees, in person and online.
  2. Share challenges and experiences you had when learning your second official language. Acknowledge the extra effort that it can take to learn and maintain language skills, especially when working remotely.

Acquiring and maintaining language skills

  1. Provide access to language training. This includes ensuring budget availability, a manageable workload and opportunities both in person and online to meet individual needs and preferences.
  2. Create opportunities for employees to use their second official language at work, in both formal and informal settings. These might be in-person or online discussion groups or even “buddy system” pairings that connect first- and second-language speakers.
  3. Encourage second-language learners to ask their colleagues to help them practise, whether in person or online (e.g., by using a bilingual Teams background).

Fostering an inclusive environment for all

  1. Invite employees to list their official languages on their online identifiers (email and chat profiles, signature blocks) to indicate their openness to communicate in either official language, and encourage staff to actively ask which language their colleagues might prefer to use.
  2. Normalize bilingual conversations! Colleagues can feel free to speak to each other in their first official languages, where appropriate. Let people know that many colleagues can understand both languages, even if they speak only one.
  3. Encourage employees to write or converse in the lesser-used official language in the hybrid workplace, regardless of whether it’s their first or second official language.
  4. Raise awareness among your employees that many of their colleagues may want to use the lesser-used official language at work, regardless of whether it’s their first or second official language.
  5. Normalize mistakes as part of the learning process. Discourage employees from commenting on a colleague’s imperfect English or French or switching to the person’s first official language if they’re trying to practise their language skills.

For more information, please see our study on 2021 study and our 2023 follow-up study on linguistic (in)security at work.