The COVID-19 pandemic did more than upset the apple cart we know as the American workplace — it turned it into applesauce.
The pandemic initially prompted many employers to switch to a fully remote workforce. Now, some employers are cobbling together a hybrid of in-office and remote work, either temporarily or permanently.
Understandably, a lot of us are struggling to cope with this hybrid way of work, particularly those of us with school-age kids at home. In many cases, our homes have become de facto offices and schools.
To help adjust your mindset about the balance between in-office and remote work, Andres Lares, managing partner of the Shapiro Negotiations Institute, suggests viewing the situation “as an opportunity rather than a chore.”
“Most of the workforce was entirely in the office for decades, then went entirely remote for over a year. The hybrid should provide the best of both worlds,” Lares says.
To make the transition to hybrid work as smooth as possible, we tapped the knowledge of several businesspeople. Here’s their advice on how to navigate the “new normal” of hybrid work.
Easing into new hybrid work models
Stick to a routine
Perry Zheng, who manages engineers at ride-hailing company Lyft and at his startup, Cash Flow Portal, notes that maintaining a workday routine at home and the office differs from maintaining separate work and home routines.
“When you have a hybrid work schedule to follow, you cannot follow the same routine every day. But a day in the office can be more demanding than a workday at home,” Zheng advises. “So, if you want to adjust to a hybrid schedule, you need to make sure your routine is shaped up accordingly. You may need to rest more before the day you have to go to the office and other things like that.”
Trevor Larson, co-founder and CEO of Nectar, a developer of peer-to-peer rewards software, says you should try to go to bed around the same time every night, regardless of whether you’ll be working at home or in the office the next day. Along those lines, set your alarm for the same time every workday.
Hold yourself accountable
HR consultant Michael Moran, owner of Green Lion Search Group, says that because a hybrid work model means you’ll be spending more time at home than in the past, self-discipline and self-accountability become critical.
“It helps to have a designated work area where you can do work free from distractions. Your manager may not be around to peek over your shoulder, so you must be intentional with your time and meet agreed-upon goals,” Moran says.
Separate your work and personal lives
Christy Marie Jose, senior manager of people operations at software company Fingent, suggests setting boundaries so that your work life doesn’t spill over into your personal life, and vice versa.
One way to separate the two is by dedicating one computer or other electronic device solely to your job. You also might try setting aside blocks of time each day for both work and personal tasks. When it comes to scheduling work tasks, figure out which ones can best be carried out at the office and which ones can best be done at home, Moran says.
To boost productivity, Jose suggests taking breathers during the workday, regardless of whether you’re at home or the office. She does this by taking a walk, catching up on some light reading or sipping a cup of coffee.
Mix up the scenery
Marketing entrepreneur Ryan Stewart recommends maximizing productivity by picking the work setting — home or office — that fits your work style and needs.
“If you feel like you work best without any distractions in your home, it might be best for you to try to work maximum hours from your home,” Stewart says. “Conversely, if you feel working from the office suits you more, use the hybrid model’s flexibility to ensure you work from the office most of the time.”
Because a hybrid work model likely results in more time at home and less time in the home than you’re accustomed to, it’s important to keep the lines of communication open. To avoid communication lapses caused by a hybrid schedule, Justin Nabity, founder and CEO of business advisory firm Physicians Thrive, suggests installing project management software and sharing calendars so that every team member is on the same page regarding deadlines, meetings, shifts and the like.
Make the most of your time in the office
Be sure to participate in your workplace culture, even though you might be showing up less at the office, Moran says. You don’t want to become a victim of “out of sight, out of mind.”
“Now more than ever, your relationship with your colleagues matters greatly. You are not seeing each other every day, so use the time you are together to strengthen your bond,” he says.