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3 Things Your Boss Needs to Hear About Hybrid Work

How to get on the same page before you return to the office

Photo: GettyImages

It’s one thing to have a plan for what you’re going to do when your organization’s office reopens. It’s another thing to have a plan that gets all your colleagues on the same page.

That difference is what drives the questions I hear over and over as I speak with employers, industry associations and journalists about the transition to the hybrid workplace.

For the past sixteen months, many professionals have experienced a common reality in which everyone else on their team, organization and industry is full-time remote. But that’s about to splinter into everything from a full-time return to the office, to split remote/office schedules to people choosing to remain full-time out of office.

With all that fragmentation, how do you get your colleagues and your boss aligned? How do you ensure that you’re all working effectively as a team?

You do it by convening conversations about remote and hybrid work, so everyone in the organization (or everyone in your industry) can share a common language and set of expectations for how you’ll combine remote and office work.

In the past few months, I have helped companies and associations get those conversations underway in a range of presentations and workshops. Here are the three key points I make in those presentations — and I find they get an enthusiastic reception every time I explain how to put them into practice.

Focus on objectives, not hours

If you still measure productivity by the clock on the wall, you’re missing the biggest work and life gains that come from spending at least some of your workdays out of the office. You can get much more done in the relative quiet of home (or if your home is too distracting, the relative peace of a co-working space or coffee shop.)

Once you shift to measuring your accomplishments instead of your hours, the productivity boost of remote work can actually create some more room: for new projects, lunch with stimulating colleagues, or exercise and self-care. And it’s essential to take that room — to recognize that you need to create the remote-work equivalent to the social time you get at the office water cooler or the little breaks that happen when you’re on your way to the bathroom or the break room — so that you don’t burn out.

When the whole team holds the vision of focusing on objectives instead of hours, it’s easier for all of you to maintain that kind of balance.

Automate your attention

Remote and hybrid work can intensify the problem of digital overload. We become even more reliant on email and messaging to stay in touch with our colleagues — either because we’re working from home or because they are — the volume of messaging can increase and cut into the productivity win of those days at home. You and your colleagues need a shared understanding of how you’ll stem the flood without missing essential information.

The best way to manage digital overload is by automating your attention: Creating email rules and filters and messaging notification rules that ensure we only see the most important information in real-time. If you want to get your most important work done (and make room for a personal life, too), you need to scale your digital communications to the amount of time they deserve, relative to our other priorities. Automating your attention is the best way of keeping you focused on what matters most and avoiding the distraction and temptation of addressing messages you don’t need to see right now — if ever.

When everyone on the team has the same basic approach to managing overload, you’ll know how to reach one another if it’s crucial and avoid distracting one another if it’s not.

Meet less

The biggest impediment to remote work productivity is interruption by video meetings. Now that offices are reopening, we have an opportunity to fix that problem — by treating our days in the office as our collaboration days, and reserving our days at home for focused, solitary work. That means synchronizing work schedules so that we can meet face-to-face on office days — or in the case of geographically dispersed teams, connecting computer-to-computer or boardroom-to-boardroom.

Just as important, it means establishing a common expectation that remote days will be largely or entirely meeting-free. If you’re in an organization where there are lots of cross-team meetings that mean you can’t keep everyone’s meeting-free days in sync, you can still embrace the norm that everyone can and should block off big chunks of their remote days. Doing so means they aren’t pulled into video calls and can focus on their top-priority work.

Again, this is much easier to execute once everyone on the team (or better yet, everyone in the organization) has shared the same experience of awakening to the vision of meeting less and getting more focused work time.

Getting on the same page

Sharing a common approach to remote work is even more important now that offices are reopening. It’s how we keep Team Remote and Team Office from coming to blows — and helping them become one integrated team, with everyone working in the way that’s most effective for them.

We’re at a moment of enormous transition. And speaking with organization after organization has shown me the power of developing a shared understanding and a common language for setting expectations and navigating the choices ahead. That’s why we wrote Remote, Inc., — and it’s why I am delighted whenever I have a chance to talk with an organization or association about what this next transition will look like.

If I can help your organization, team, or industry get on the same page, I’d love to hear from you.

An excerpt from my recent conversation with the Lavin Agency’s Author’s Corner.

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Alexandra Samuel

Alexandra Samuel

Author, Remote Inc: How To Thrive at Work…Wherever You Are. Tech speaker. Writer & data journalist for Wall Street Journal, Harvard Business Review & more.