74% of Americans who can work remotely would prefer to spend at least one day in an office per week, with 30% looking to work from a space outside the home two or three days per week.
With growing demands for flexible work arrangements, a hybrid work model is growing in popularity—and the research shows this might be the future of work. Gartner reports a hybrid model reduces fatigue by 44%, increases intent to stay at the company by 45%, and boosts performance by 28%.
As more and more companies shift to this model, it’s important to understand the best way to approach potential challenges. We’ve rounded up tips and best practices to help you navigate the reality of splitting your work time between home and an office.
Tip #1: Increase productivity by managing and scheduling your time properly
Whether working at home or in an office, building sustainable productivity habits is key to getting things done.
The first step to improving your productivity levels is to set a routine. When setting your schedule for the week or month, the main question to ask yourself is: In what environment do my best work?
But for most people, “work” isn’t just a single task. Using your remote time and your in-office time efficiently requires you to figure out not just when you should focus on certain projects, but also where you might want to complete them: At home or in the office?
When doing independent work, for example, you may want to select the location with the fewest distractions. For some, this may be at home where they have a quiet setup, for others—especially those with children—it may be the opposite! Consider where you are going to have the easiest time focusing on whatever types of work you have on the agenda.
In collaboration with leveraging the two separate spaces you have to work, experts also recommend time blocking in order to stay on top of tasks, whether you’re at home or in the office.
The time blocking method asks you to divide your day into blocks of time—each block is dedicated to accomplishing a specific task, or group of tasks, and only those specific tasks. Instead of keeping an open-ended to-do list that seems to never end, you’ll start each day with a concrete schedule that lays out what you’ll work on and when. Single-tasking (focusing on one task at a time) can make you up to 80% more productive than splitting your attention across multiple tasks.
Tip #2: Understand the four types of collaboration
As mentioned in Tip #1, understanding where to complete certain types of work is crucial—and a lot of that decision may revolve around whether or not you need to collaborate with other stakeholders.
According to Gartner, there are four different types of collaboration: working together-together (you’re in the office and collaborating with others); working alone-together (you’re in the office but by yourself); working together-apart (you’re working from home but hopping on video meetings); and working alone-apart (you’re working from home on an individual assignment).
In hybrid working environments, teams can engineer opportunities to collaborate more intentionally. In this new hybrid world, the office should mainly be used for culture-building, team-planning, training, and collaboration—not just to sit together and work separately. From whiteboarding sessions to career development conversations and team lunches, there are a lot of great ways to utilize your office space and maintain connection with your coworkers. But if you need to work deeply on an individual task, working alone-apart might be the best option.
Tip #3: Maintain a healthy setup at home and at the office
A hybrid model can only work if you adapt to it in a healthy way. If you find that you can’t get work done in a reasonable amount of time (whether you’re at home or in the office) or you can’t think of anything else but work, your setup may be contributing more than you think.
While setting up an office at home may sound daunting (and expensive!), it doesn’t need to be complicated. Before you toil over which succulent to buy or what stack of books will make you look the most well-read, focus on a few critical items: A monitor, a keyboard and mouse, a desk, and an ergonomic chair. (Pro tip: Once you have all of the essentials secured, here’s a list of the best seat cushions and most low-maintenance desk plants to level up your desk experience.)
Many companies offer a home-office stipend, so be sure to check in with your HR team about any resources that can help you set yourself up for success and ease the burden of buying new supplies and furniture. From monthly stipends that contribute to the cost of increased utilities and internet to a lump sum amount that helps you start your at-home office, organizations like HubSpot, Basecamp, and Buffer are all paving the way for what remote stipends should look like.
Tip #4: Stay connected with your coworkers
Hybrid work is all about communication.
The critical challenge in uniting a dispersed workforce is ensuring a certain level of high-quality communication between colleagues. In order to thrive, communication channels that allow for collaboration and innovation need to be established and nurtured. And it definitely goes beyond replacing the water cooler chat you used to have with your “work spouse”—extensive, open communication between managers and their reports is critical to success in a hybrid environment.
“Don’t wait for your six-month review to have a conversation about whether you have the resources, the training, and the recognition you need to thrive in your job,” Harvard Business School professor Tsedal Neeley says. Frequent check-ins between bosses and their direct reports should not be underestimated.
While it may seem unnecessary to facilitate the kind of team bonding that happened in the small moments at the office, finding ways to recreate time to connect with coworkers is important for team morale—and even productivity.
“During my last staff meeting, we must have spent 40% of the time talking about nothing,” a CEO interviewed by Harvard Business Review recently confessed. “It was one of the most enjoyable, productive calls we’ve had since we shut the office.”
While everyone may not always be on board to spend more time on Zoom catching up on the shows they’re watching or what their kids have been up to, it’s possible to set aside time for small talk without overextending people’s Zoom fatigue or distracting the team from the point of the meeting.
Try putting small talk on the agenda—give it a set amount of time and come with a question to start discussion. You can also leave five to ten minutes at the end of the meeting where folks can stay on the call and chat if they have time. This way, those who are looking for more connection and to catch up with their coworkers can do so without asking the whole group to participate.
If you’re looking for a more formal way to connect, consider scheduling a weekly virtual or in-person “coffee break” for your team—you could even plan a team offsite. A study by INSEAD found that thriving teams consciously set aside time to socialize. Whether that’s in the form of a book or film club; a structured team offsite that brings the team together and also results in clearer team goals and initiatives; or more intentional meetings, finding ways to prioritize team connection is a worthwhile investment.
Tip #5: Provide the tools that will empower employees to do their best work
Hybrid work is an entirely new way for businesses to operate, and it requires everyone in an organization to adopt a new mindset, skills, and tools.
Here are the top four workplace technology categories that companies need to keep top of mind as you transition to a hybrid approach:
- Security: Strong cybersecurity, privacy, and trust practices that extend across all workplace technologies are imperative to protect your business and people from online threats wherever they work. This includes having a system where there are firewalls, endpoint and VPN security, password security, and email security.
- Collaboration: Innovation happens when teams are in sync and can connect optimally. Team collaboration tools can cover a wide range of needs, from online whiteboarding to real-time document collaboration. Look for solutions that let you simplify and digitize.
- Communication: In an environment where work can happen anywhere, video communication is integral to daily work. To level communication fields across in-office and work-from-home employees, look for video conferencing tools that best mirror in-person experiences.
- Flex Desking: One solution for managing a workspace with different occupants daily is “flex desking” or “hot desking,” a process where employees book desks for the days they want to come into the office. This lets hybrid workers book desks when they need them, and keeps them open for other employees to use when they don’t. Having a solution to enable seamless desk booking means you won’t get stuck working in the kitchen because your desk was turned into a printing station.
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