The hybrid workweek—spent partly in the office, partly at home—has become the new norm. In fact, a 2022 Gallup survey indicates that it will be the predominant work arrangement well into the future. The adjustment to this new work setup will require some organization. With the right approach and intentionality, a hybrid schedule could even offer more freedom than working from home full time.
Here’s how to make the most of your time working in your office and at home.
1. Preplan your week
“A productive day at the office or at home takes some preplanning,” says Amy Freshman, ADP’s senior director of global HR. “Before COVID, we took it for granted that everyone would be in the office every day.”
Now, scheduling in-person meetings requires some legwork to figure out who will be in the office, while working from home may require you to bring home supporting documents and files, and possibly equipment such as a laptop and mouse.
Mapping out which days you’ll be in the office and which days you’ll work from home will allow you to plan the right tasks on your to-do list for the right settings—and give your coworkers a chance to schedule time with you when you’re around.
2. Do collaborative work at the office
Use your time working in the office to focus on face-to-face interactions with your colleagues and manager. Tasks that are particularly well suited for in-person meetings include brainstorming, decision-making, idea generation and giving feedback to a colleague, particularly any critical feedback.
“Any meeting where you need to read the room a bit or work through a decision should be done in the office,” says Lindsay Chim, senior vice president of the Right Management’s talent management practice.
Office days are an opportunity to have those human connections we craved when we first started working from home, Chim says. “This is about making space for spontaneity,” she adds. “Make sure you build in breaks and space to run into other people.”
For instance, make time to have lunch with a colleague or to walk around the office and have impromptu conversations with your peers and manager. If there are specific relationships you want to nurture, reach out to find out when those people will be in the office and plan your schedule so you can meet for coffee.
“If you’re going to be in the office with other people, it doesn’t make sense to spend time emailing and calling people who aren’t there,” says Laura Vanderkam, author of 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think. Your days in the office should be devoted to tasks that are best done with colleagues who are also in the office.
3. Do focused work at home
Use your time working from home to focus on specific tasks and actions that require you to concentrate for an hour or more, advises Jenn Lim, author of Beyond Happiness: How Authentic Leaders Prioritize Purpose and People for Growth and Impact. You could also use this time to have one-on-one conversations with colleagues you already have a relationship with, she adds.
The days you’re working at home also provide a good opportunity to schedule doctors’ appointments, errands, home maintenance and other personal and family priorities. For instance, if you know your daughter has ballet practice at 4 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays, you might want to make sure those are your work-from-home days to give yourself the flexibility to take her to class.
“Prioritize your work but sprinkle in the life stuff you need to do for your family and for yourself,” Lim encourages. “Instead of seeing hybrid [work] as a challenge, view it as an opportunity to have more of a sense of control.”
4. Keep files and equipment organized
Ideally, you should have dedicated workstations at home and at your office. If you need to carry a laptop back and forth from your home and office, Chim recommends building in as much duplication as possible by having a dedicated power cable and mouse at each workstation, rather than moving them each day. She also recommends arranging your home and office work setups so they look and feel as similar as possible.
It’s also a good idea to digitize your files as much as possible so they are available from any location. If your work requires physical files and documents, Chim recommends having two copies available—one that stays at your office and one that stays at home.
5. Rethink your commuting time
Most people who are going back into the office dread the commute, but there are ways to reframe how you think about and use that time.
When everyone was working from home every day, many people would simply wake up and go straight to their computer to start working without a break until the end of the day, Chim says. Use your commute time as a chance to let your mind wander and contemplate events that occurred during the workday or catch up with your favorite podcast or listen to an audiobook.
Then, think about how you could use the commuting time you’re saving on days you work from home to your benefit. “Take a moment and be grateful for that, because before the pandemic, you probably used to commute five days a week,” Vanderkam says.
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