Embracing hybrid work? Here are some hints to help you succeed.
Hybrid work is no longer an anomaly or a special case. With 83% of employees preferring hybrid work1 , hybrid is here to stay. As the hybrid movement accelerates, we’re all part of figuring out “how to hybrid” effectively. Sure, there’ll be bumps in the road and tradeoffs to be made. But, together, we can create a new standard for work that’s flexible, rewarding, and productive.
So, let’s start brainstorming ways to create healthy hybrid habits and productive hybrid workplaces. I’ll go first. Here are my top 10 ideas for productivity in the hybrid workplace.
1. Update your definition of productivity
As organizations and individuals, we need to change our definition of productivity. During the pandemic, traditional measures of productivity—such as employee activity and tasks completed—soared.2 But, so did the number of hours people worked and employee exhaustion rates. While the productivity metrics looked great, it wasn’t sustainable.
As a result, experts around the world are redefining productivity. Google says, “Impact trumps activity as the measure of productivity.”3 (A.K.A., quality over quantity.) Microsoft scientists suggest measuring well-being, social connections, and collaboration rates, in addition to traditional “employee activity” measurements. Why? Because all of those things are required for innovation and workplace success.
Take a minute to think about how you define productivity at your company. Then, consider factors that help you get work done and the factors that help you have healthy work-life integration.
2. Set whole-life productivity parameters (and track your progress)
We often think of “productivity” as a work thing. But when you go hybrid, work and life get intermingled in all sorts of ways. For example, if your kid has a game or you want to take a class at the gym, you might take a break during the workday and catch up at night. It’s all good as long as you set some parameters. Define, in advance, how much effort you need to be effective in your role (and to meet organizational expectations). Then, determine how work meshes with the factors important to the “whole-life” approach. As you move forward, track how well you’re achieving your desired goals.
3. Use your work time wisely with help from a productivity pie chart
To be most productive, spend some time considering your work priorities. Think about the tasks you do at work. List them all. (There are probably more than you think.) Ask yourself:
- What are my priorities?
- What work provides the most value?
- What are my responsibilities?
- What tasks take the most time?
Then, create a “productivity pie chart” that shows how much time and importance you assign to each task. Whether your pie chart is for a day, a week, or a whole year; the visual cue can help you remember your time priorities.
4. Define “office tasks” vs. “home tasks”
Some tasks—like writing a detailed report—are better done on your own in a quiet space. Other tasks—like brainstorming—are better done in the office with lots of people. And there are plenty of tasks that fall somewhere in between. Take another look at your list of tasks and identify any that you prefer to do in a specific location. Schedule your week to accommodate those preferences.
5. Use your calendar as a productivity tool
While we’re on the topic of being intentional with your time, let’s talk about how your calendar can help you stay organized and efficient.
- Plan each week (and day) strategically, earmarking time for the different tasks you hope to accomplish and adjusting as needed throughout the week.
- Color-code calendar entries to get an at-a-glance overview of how you’re using your time. (You can even coordinate the colors with your productivity pie chart.)
- Block time on your calendar (and keep it sacred). Consider blocking your calendar for short breaks, in-depth work time, summarizing your thoughts after meetings, etc. This “block time” might seem like a luxury, but don’t schedule things over it. Your time to reflect and focus will help you be more productive in the long run.
6. Reduce back-to-back meeting days when possible
If you’ve already started working in a hybrid model, chances are you’ve experienced back-to-back-to-back meetings. Having meetings with your colleagues in the office seems like a no-brainer. But research shows that all of those meetings in a row might actually hurt your brain. Having too many meetings in a row decreases your ability to focus and engage.4,5 It also impacts your mental health.5
So instead of trying to cram all the meetings into the days you’re in the office, prioritize the meetings that really require in-person collaboration. As the pandemic proved, other meetings—like status meetings—work fine online. Some hybrid workplaces even offer meeting-free days.
7. When you’re in the office, prioritize unscheduled chats
Meetings aren’t the only way you interact with people in the office. Some of the most critical conversations aren’t scheduled at all. Take time—or maybe even block time—just to hang out with your colleagues for a few minutes. You can chat about work or personal stuff, it’s the connection that counts.
8. Do unpleasant tasks first
Many of us engage in what psychologists call “procrastivity”—the act of putting off a lousy task by doing another productive task instead.6 Procrastivity can be an even bigger problem when you’re working at home and domestic tasks are all around you (e.g., “Maybe I’ll just put the laundry in first …”).
However, dreading an unpleasant task causes stress and lowers your overall productivity. Get the task over with as soon as possible. Ideally, tackle that distressing situation at the beginning of the day/week when you have more energy and focus. Once you’ve eliminated that unpleasantness, reward yourself with a celebratory treat. After the dread is gone, the rest of your work will feel like a breeze.
9. Give yourself a challenge
Challenges stimulate your brain and lead to creativity. If you’re having a low productivity day, consider challenging yourself. Try to do a job in 45 minutes, when it usually takes an hour. Or look for a new way to make a boring task more interesting. Maybe collaborate with coworkers to see who can create the best workplace playlist. Usually, these types of challenges increase productivity. Just be sure you don’t let the challenge get in the way of the work.
10. Duplicate your favorite office equipment/supplies
When you work in two locations, you’re always schlepping your stuff between them. And there’s nothing worse than getting to the office, and realizing you left your laptop charger or headphones at home. Eliminate the packing problems by having duplicates of your most critical items. Whether it’s your laptop accessories, your preferred pen, or your favorite water bottle, invest in two of them.
Hybrid work is the future
It’s easy to think of hybrid work as going “back to the office,” but it’s really about moving into “the future of work.” Learning to be productive in a hybrid environment is (literally) work in progress. And, we’re all figuring it out together. Have any other ideas about how to make hybrid work (or the future of work) great? I’d love to hear about them!
At Salo, we’re building a world that works better together. We help senior professionals in finance, accounting, and HR design their own consulting careers—choosing the work that is most meaningful to them. From flexible schedules to rewarding work, we help our consultants Make It Meaningful.®
1. How to solve a new equation in the future of work, Accenture
2. Let’s Redefine “Productivity” for the Hybrid Era, Harvard Business Review
3. Redefining productivity in a hybrid world, Forbes
4. Back-to-back meetings are a disaster for productivity and mental health, TechRadar
5. Research shows your brain needs breaks, Microsoft
6. Procrastivity (a.k.a. Sneaky Avoidance) and Adult ADHD Coping, Psychology Today
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