Although the internet has been with us for over 30 years now, not all organizations practiced remote work until recently. Today it’s different. We work from our homes, at various hours, in diverse environments. Because of it, companies face new challenges.
We get distracted by things that are happening around us. Direct messages come at all times. We work but don’t have time for the most important tasks. When we're in the office, we spend time catching up with colleagues. So how can you get things done in a hybrid environment? We will do our best to answer this question here.
1. Have a Plan
Plans give our days the right structure. When we work in the office it’s easy: you know exactly when your work starts and when it ends. But if it’s a home office, it’s more likely you’ll oversleep and you will work half an hour longer. That’s a trap - 30 minutes become an hour, and then you “stop working” but still check for new messages on the phone.
A bit of structure is enough. Start your workday with a team meeting where you say what you’ll work on today. Daily standups are a great way to keep the day running smoothly. You will be accountable in front of other team members and you will have the motivation to get up in the morning.
Don’t schedule meetings at the end of the day, it’s likely they will exceed the scheduled time. A good way to end the day is to do a recap of what you’ve done. I like to write down all the things that I worked on today, including meetings, ad hoc tasks, etc. You will see how much work you really got done throughout the day.
In a hybrid environment, you have to decide on which day you’ll go to the office. It can be more difficult to get the important stuff done there so you have to plan your week in advance. Decide on the priorities and “Eat that Frog”.
2. Block time for deep work
This point ties back to the first one. If you have a plan and a structure, you’ll notice at which hours you perform best. Each person has a part of the day when they can get into “the zone.” Work gets much easier then, and you feel like the king of the world. But this time is often filled with meetings.
As soon as you find the time where you work best, tell your team members about it and block the time in your calendar. Now, your colleagues will know that from 10 to 12 you are working on the most important projects. Set the “do not disturb” option on your chat applications as well. If something urgent happens, they can call you. It’s up to you to set the boundaries.
3. Work on communication
You work in a team and have to communicate with each other. Together you can achieve more, but the communication process needs to be streamlined. If you answer every email straight away, you will soon drown in overdue tasks. Processes can help you avoid such scenarios.
One thing you can do is to set a time for replying to emails and messages, but then some people will have to wait quite long for your replies. Another approach is to respond to messages only outside your deep working hours. That way, you’ll be out of reach only in a fixed time window.
But there is one more approach. Use a project management tool to keep track of the essential tasks and collaborate with your colleagues. When it comes to chats and email, reply only at specific hours. This way, you will work on the project instead of reading every random message, and you’ll have “free time” to reply. We tend to check our inboxes every few minutes to see if the new message is related to our project. But most of the time, it’s not - it’s simply a distraction.
4. Take breaks
Most people know about the importance of taking breaks, but we want to be as productive as possible. Feeling productive doesn’t equal being productive. You have to take breaks so your brain can rest. In the office, your friend will ask you to grab a coffee, but at home, it’s up to you if you’ll get off the computer.
In a hybrid environment, it’s even more difficult. You want to get stuff done quickly. You will work for a few hours straight, but this can lead to burnout much quicker than you think. Sometimes you have to force yourself to take a break. It can feel weird to stop working for even a few minutes, but it’s good for your health.
Once you get used to taking breaks every now and then, you can think about Pomodoro. What’s that? It’s a time management method in which you work for 25 minutes and then take a 5 minutes break. People use it to break big tasks down into smaller manageable chunks, but you can use it to recover your creativity. On YouTube, you can find lots of playlists designed for the Pomodoro technique, the music changes depending on work/break mode.
5. Adjust your environment
Not everyone has a spare room to set up a home office, but everyone can take care of the basics. Get an ergonomic chair (ergonomic doesn’t equal gaming), a desk that can fit all your equipment, and work on your background. It’s nice to have a wall behind you, decorated with flowers, some paintings, or a shelf. You can put something personal there. It will look professional, and you won’t get stressed if people start walking behind you.
There is another substantial downside to working at home. Some people don’t understand that you are at work. It can make you furious if you're trying to concentrate on a task when people start singing or talking to you. To avoid that, you should educate your household on the way you work. A pair of headphones with active noise cancelation can also be a good investment, as they work wonders.
But you should also be prepared to go to the office, even if it's only now and then. Make a list of things you should take with you. People tend to pack their laptop and just go to work, but after a few hours they notice that the battery is dying. We forget to take chargers, headphones, or our favorite mouse. Without the right equipment you won’t get your work done. If you know that on Friday you’ll go to the office, pack everything once you finish work on Thursday. Check once again in the morning if you have everything.
A hybrid work environment is much different from a traditional one. Nonetheless, with good planning, you can achieve a satisfactory work-life balance. Take your time to prepare and try to be conscious about your priorities. I hope this article will help you achieve the results you want and avoid basic mistakes.
At Maxima Consulting, we’ve been working in such an environment for a long time. We had learned our lessons already. If you are looking for work in a hybrid model and want to work with people who support you in every situation, check our job offers. Maxima Consulting is recruiting all the time!