Remote work was already on the rise prior to the arrival of COVID-19.
In fact, a study from Pew Research Center found that 20% of Americans who could perform their jobs somewhere other than the office were choosing to do so before 2020. When the global health crisis struck, however, that percentage skyrocketed to 71%, as most employees had no choice but to stay home.
With our new understanding of the virus and many organizations attempting to transition to a new way of working—one where both in-person and remote work are encouraged—we have more freedom than ever to choose the workplace model we want to be a part of. But, as always, with freedom comes responsibility.
There’s no going back
The majority of employees who worked remotely during the pandemic (89%) say they want to continue with remote work at least some of the time. And the number of Americans who have left the workforce altogether in recent months suggests these workers won’t take no for an answer. Many employers understand this and have adopted a hybrid model (which could comprise virtually any combination of remote and on-site work schedules) as a permanent policy moving forward. Up to 75% of firms have indicated they won’t be going back to a fully on-site approach. That includes massive companies such as Salesforce, Target, Citigroup, Ford, and many others across a wide range of sectors.
If you’re like most workers, you’ll probably agree that a move toward hybrid work models is good news. However, that doesn’t mean that the familiar challenges encountered by remote employees during the pandemic have been solved. If your company is adopting some form of hybrid work to kick off the new normal, these tips will help you triumph:
1. Establish a morning routine—and stick to it.
Regardless of whether you’re working from home or going into the office for a day, your morning routine shouldn’t change. Try to go to sleep at the same time each night and wake up at the same time each morning. On the days when you’re working remotely, use the time that would’ve been taken up by your commute to mentally prepare for the workday ahead. Prioritize tasks, set goals and deadlines, or jot down talking points for an upcoming call. You’ll be less stressed throughout the rest of the day if you’ve made a schedule or already sorted through challenges in the morning. Establishing your morning routine should also include non-work habits, particularly the ones that help establish a sense of calm and order, setting the tone for the rest of the day.
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The benefits of a consistent morning regime can’t be understated. For instance, a study of employees at General Mills found that those who attended just one program on mindfulness meditation reported a major boost in productivity. By incorporating even small habits—meditating, hydrating, going for a walk, reading—into your mornings, you can dramatically improve your overall well-being over time.
2. Make video communication part of your daily schedule.
Many organizations opted for an audio-only approach to team interactions during the pandemic, and high-quality audio will still be a critical part of business in a hybrid model that relies on regular meetings for both remote and on-site employees. Just don’t overlook the versatility that video provides in your day-to-day schedule. “Video will be an integral part of office life,” writes Scott Schoeneberger, the managing partner of design-forward technology firm Bluewater. “Whether you’re connecting from different spaces in the building, keeping your team partially remote, or just trying to boost morale, you can use video to keep sharing as you work.”
On the other hand, if you’ve already been incorporating video into each day, you might have experienced the common phenomenon known as video fatigue. You’re especially susceptible if your video calls contain low-quality or flat audio, unclear agendas, and/or too many people. Although you might not have control over some of those factors, you still can reap the benefits of video. For instance, get out of your chair and walk around as you’re thinking or talking, as this has been shown to enhance cognitive processing. You can also try investing in a quality camera that offers dynamic features. You’ll face fewer communication blunders and will have an easier time expressing ideas and connecting with colleagues remotely and in person.
3. Set adequate boundaries.
If your do-list is bigger than your calendar, it’s time for a reality check: you’re not capable of expanding your capacity to take on more. During the pandemic, many remote workers found themselves checking emails before and after typical office hours, or even making themselves available to employers 24/7. Not surprisingly, many experienced severe stress and burnout as a result—likely contributing to the current “Great Resignation.”
When you’re facing deadlines or demanding colleagues, it’s easy to forget that your professional success ultimately hinges on your physical and mental health. Consider this advice from Chris Chancey, career expert and CEO of Amplio Recruiting: “If you do not firmly plan for personal time, you will never have time to do other things outside of work. No matter how hectic your schedule might be, you ultimately have control of your time and life.” Without enough rest, your creativity and information-processing abilities will suffer, and so will your work. Instead of rolling directly from your bed to your desk in the morning or canceling evening plans to put out proverbial fires, set the right expectations with your team and minimize distractions during the time you’ve dedicated to work. Create a culture that approves of taking well-earned time off to rest and recharge.
Ultimately, a hybrid model can only work if you adapt to it in a healthy way. If you finding that you can’t get work done in a reasonable amount of time (whether you’re at home or in the office) or you can’t think of anything else but work, the arrangement won’t be sustainable. Practice these three concepts to ensure that your newfound flexibility really does mean freedom.