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How to be more productive in a hybrid office

Be prepared for anything, but take heart in knowing that humans are programmed to adapt.

October 11, 2021 / 08:53 AM IST
Illustration by Suneesh Kalarickal for Moneycontrol.com

Illustration by Suneesh Kalarickal for Moneycontrol.com

As several organisations reopen offices, the work-from-home (WFH) model has given way to the hybrid workplace. For those of us who’ve been holed up in our homes for the better part of the last 18 months, this means reorienting ourselves to a routine we’d abandoned over a year-and-a-half ago… but not entirely.

In pre-pandemic times, we knew the exact timings of our bus or train, and could plan our mornings accordingly. Once we started WFH, we knew we could wake up at, say, 8 am and get to our work desk by 9. But just as we got used to the ‘new normal’ a new routine has been introduced: the hybrid office.

The hybrid office is meant to bring together the best of work from office and WFH. However, it may not always succeed in doing that.

So how can you be productive in a hybrid office?

By its very definition, the hybrid office system is fluid in nature. While that can be a good thing, it can also make things difficult to manage. How can you be productive when you don’t know where you will be tomorrow?

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1. Acknowledge that the hybrid office system isn’t a set routine

What may help you deal with the hybrid office system is acknowledging that you may not have a set routine for the foreseeable future. As someone who held a 9-5 job for nearly three years before opting to freelance, accepting this absence of routine has helped me get things done. 

While it was unsettling at first to, say, step inside an empty gym or walk down shoppers-free aisles in a supermarket on a Tuesday afternoon, I began to see the perks of these things. So, I began setting such tasks aside, to do them in the middle of a less hectic workday. Occasionally, these tasks serve as a welcome break between tough assignments.

Your supervisor may not be happy with the idea of you going grocery-shopping, but there’s no reason you can’t go for a short run in your apartment complex or a brisk walk at home while taking a work call.

2. Plan no further than three days at a time

Your schedule may not be the only one in a state of flux due to the hybrid office set-up; your colleagues may be sailing in the same boat. While this may serve as a good excuse for you to just stumble from one day to another, resist that temptation. Look at your week in blocks of three days and plan accordingly. Three days is also a good enough window for you to check if the colleague with whom you’ve been collaborating on a project is in office on those days, so you can jam together from the same room for a change.

3. Use your calendar app; it’s there for a reason

Earlier, you could get away with scribbling a note in your book about that thing you need to discuss with your boss, mostly because you could simply walk up to them and get it done. However, with WFH, you now likely set up a time even for that 15-minute Zoom call. But the moment you do, it reflects on your calendar, blocking out yours and your invitees’ time, the grey blocks giving you a sense of when to schedule other calls and plan the remainder of your day better. There’s no reason why you cannot carry on this practice in your hybrid office system too. Use your calendar app to block out time, not just for your meetings but also your other tasks as well as things we take for granted like work commute or that 15-minute lunch break.

4. Keep spare essentials ready to go

Even the best-laid plans can go awry. You may get a call to show up at work or that client may set up an important meeting at an hour’s notice. At such times, more than ever, it’s crucial to be fully prepared. Stock your bag with tech essentials: charger, battery pack, any essential cables, a spare mobile device like an iPad with access to your cloud storage. If you require glasses to read, have an extra pair handy. Ultimately, throw in a pen and a notepad for that rare apocalyptic moment when all tech fails.

As a race, humans are programmed to adapt. We’ve made it through nearly two years of a deadly pandemic by doing just that. Take heart in knowing that as you navigate through the uncertainty of your next work week. 
Abhishek Mande is a freelance journalist.
first published: Oct 10, 2021 08:57 pm

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