Hybrid workplace tips to stay on top of your game.

The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed us to new ways of working. Even after the pandemic is over, it is likely that companies will give their employees flexibility to choose whether to work from home completely or from the office for a few days in the work week. A hybrid workplace model may be the new normal.

Sunder Pichai, CEO of Google, has already rolled out this model where on any day 60 percent employees will work from office, 20 percent will work from new office locations and the remaining 20 percent would work from home.

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As more and more organizations move toward creating a hybrid workplace, it is relevant to understand what could be less than optimal work habits in this model and how to address them.

Work around transition troubles

Problem: Just as you needed to adapt to a work from home (WFH) routine, the hybrid model will need you to adjust to a new one. Make sure you plan the transition smoothly, so your work is not affected.

Planning your work realistically is the key. One way of managing this transition is to segregate tasks which can be done independently and those that require collaboration or virtual meetings with others. Manage independent tasks at home and set up real-time/virtual meetings for your day in office so that you are not distracted or lost when you start working from office again. Gradually, the balance will set in.

Don’t confuse being busy with productivity

Problem: The lack of physical interface will continue in the hybrid model to some extent. One flip side of this is that people tend to pack their calendars with all sorts of calls and virtual meetings, leaving in its trail exhaustion and fatigue. This is also driven by the fear of missing out (FOMO) as people don’t want to be excluded from any meeting lest it affect their career adversely.

Solution: Carefully pick which meetings to attend and prioritize those where you can add value. The power of saying no is generally much greater and more useful than packing the day with nonproductive meetings. Being busy does not mean being productive. Choose wisely what you do with your time at work and pick those things that help you achieve your goals.

Cut out distractions

Problem: Some find it hard to get into the discipline of working as they do not have a dedicated workspace separate from their relaxation zones. Our smartphones are also a source of great distraction. When you transition back to office, conversations with work colleagues and just the feeling of coming to the office after a long time could put you in a distracted state.

Solution: In the absence of separate rooms for different activities, one can try using different techniques like setting aside some time for focused working when activity at home is minimum. Keeping a productive workspace at home with zero distractions is helpful. Similarly, spending some days in office and some at home could mean that office time is utilized only in socializing. Refrain from such distractions by marking time out for checking your phone and talking to colleagues.

Stay connected

Problem: All the time we have been working from home, interactions with colleagues have been mostly transactional at work. This can take a toll on our relationship with co-workers since social interaction in the virtual workplace is anyways restricted. But in the hybrid workplace model, you may be able to meet some of your team members to brainstorm or ideate like old times.

Solution: It’s important to create your own ways to make casual connections and have social interactions. One can schedule time and talk about non-work topics that are not always related to core business to develop personal connections. Set up timed coffee breaks at the office where you could include some others who are at home on that day or do a virtual pop-in with your colleagues while working from home to stay connected.

Get some exercise!

Problem: A major side effect of working long hours, whether at home or at office, is being sedentary. This could end up in serious health issues like postural defects or pain in the spine and neck.

Solution: Take regular breaks by getting up from your chair and do simple eye and body exercises. While scheduling meetings, let there be breaks in between longer meetings as attention spans tend to flag. Giving your team two-three simple physical tasks to complete like spot jogging and squats during these breaks is a good way to keep everybody active and focused.

Ira Gilani, director, Goldratt India, says, “While working in the hybrid workplace, it’s important to get complete clarity on deliverables and expectations. Regular communication and time management is the key. If you find yourself constantly stretching beyond work hours, check if you are over committing and agreeing to unrealistic targets. Also, remember to have a personal connect with your team members irrespective of your location/roles.”

Warren Buffet said, “The chains of habit are too light to be felt until they’re too heavy to be broken.” It is important to inculcate the right set of habits to make hybrid workplaces productive and sustainable.

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