A few years ago, it might have been a bit odd to make a note that said, “working at the office” in your calendar.
Most likely you were going to the same office every day, just like so many of your coworkers. And unless you were sick, at an appointment or away on vacation, they probably knew where they could find you during business hours.
The emergence of hybrid working models has introduced considerable autonomy for employees in many roles and across many different industries. It’s a recognition that, thanks to digital technologies, it’s possible for many of us to be just as productive and good at our jobs no matter where we’re located.
Of course, there are still viable reasons to reconnect in person with team members at a common location. That’s why hybrid work often means at least occasional time back in the office to collaborate, to receive training or to engage in a culture-building activity of some kind.
The precise details of hybrid work policies vary a lot from one company to another. That’s obviously better than the traditional thinking that everyone should operate in the same way, but it also means employers are acting more in partnership with their team members than before.
A business might have a rule that employees are expected in the office twice a week, for instance, but they may leave it up to the employee (or their manager) to determine precisely which days. There may be additional flexibility in terms of changing the days from one week to the next.
Ideally, hybrid work schedules could allow employees to enjoy the best of both worlds: the ability to enjoy face-to-face connections with team members, but also greater freedom to engage in tasks that require deep focus, or to attend to personal responsibilities.
Successfully transitioning to hybrid work should involve more than simply giving employees the go-ahead to work remotely, though. You should also offer guidance on how to manage their time wisely.
Recognizing that this will likely involve some trial and error on everyone’s part, use these strategies as a starting point, thinking through how you would apply them yourself:
Consider your key priorities and to-do list items for the week ahead. Which of them involve working relatively independently — perhaps inputting sales information into a CRM, analyzing marketing campaign performance data, or developing a pitch deck for a new client? Which kind of work will benefit from being able to talk in person with colleagues or to take advantage of office resources, like a large-format printer?
Next, determine which meetings are likely to bubble up. Most of us have one or two standing meetings, such as a check-in with a manager or a group huddle to plan as a team. Even if you can’t change your days from week to week, it should become a little easier to determine when you’ll want to tackle certain tasks on site or elsewhere.
Collaboration isn’t limited to having everyone physically present, but there are some group discussions where it makes more sense than others.
Look over the agenda of your next group of internal meetings and identify what you’re doing, such as:
Learning: If you simply need to stay on top of company updates or news about a customer project, you might decide you’re good to stay remote. Video calls will give you much of what you need to see and hear in order to be informed.
Consulting: You might not be setting a new policy or giving the go-ahead to an initiative, but you might have the experience and knowledge that helps inform the key decision-maker. Determining whether to show up at the office will depend on how easily you can convey that information. Can you just say a few words over a video call, or would the group understand your insights better if you were in the room drawing on a whiteboard?
Deciding: Those leading a meeting will often opt to come into the office, and with good reason. You may want to read the body language of others in the room as you make a particular call, or want to ask someone to stay behind after the meeting to discuss some additional details.
You can chat with team members using tools like Slack all day and easily move a lot of projects forward. Video works well when you might want to save time from typing.
If a lot of the collaboration you’re doing is really just reviewing material and providing feedback or approval, digital technologies provide the ideal mechanism for facilitating a quick back-and-forth with people.
Schedule your in-office time for the other kind of conversations — the ones that may require a greater ability to express empathy and emotional support. This could include coaching and mentoring sessions, or even just celebrating success with the team after they've achieved a particular milestone.
Assuming you get to choose the days you get to come into the office, reflect on your habits in terms of how you break up your tasks.
Are you someone who is best doing a lot of focused work at once, where you can be heads-down and left largely undisturbed? Maybe that means you’ll come in Monday to Wednesday and power through on more focused work elsewhere the rest of the week.
For others, variety is truly the spice of life. You might find you get an energy boost from periodic visits to the office. If that’s the case, you could keep Monday, Wednesdays and Fridays as your in-office days and use Tuesdays and Thursdays for deep work.
Hybrid work schedules don’t always have to remain fixed. As with any other business practice, testing and measuring results is always a good idea. After taking one approach to working remotely and in-office, look at your key performance indicators and assess whether you could have done better by changing up your schedule.
The ideal hybrid work schedule should allow you to choose your environment with greater intention — which will hopefully mean you work with a deeper sense of engagement, and produce even greater results.