If you feel more productive working from home, you are possibly worried about your post-pandemic return to the office. With studies suggesting that 72% of UK workers want a hybrid arrangement, you are certainly not alone!

It’s easy to see why so many people are apprehensive. After months of managing your own schedule, going back to an office full of distractions is daunting. Studies suggest that it can take up to 23 minutes to get back on track after an interruption. We lose valuable time with every last-minute request, impromptu meeting, or question from a colleague. Not only that, but the ongoing hum of conversation leaves you longing for peace. It is not surprising that people work better when controlling their environment.

Of course, managers are keen to get workers back into offices where, undoubtedly, connection and collaboration are much easier. However, most of them recognize that splitting work between the office and home is the new normal. The good news is that almost half of UK companies are planning for a future hybrid workforce; so, although returning to the office is inevitable for most people, it will be more flexible than ever before.

Read on for our tips for navigating hybrid work without compromising your productivity or mental health.

#1: Set up your workspace

In March 2020, thousands of workers rushed to set up makeshift home offices when offices suddenly went remote. Maybe your kitchen table worked as a temporary desk in the early days, but back or neck pain will affect how well you perform and become detrimental to your long-term mental health. To work well from home, you must have the proper setup. Start by asking your manager what provisions they can arrange for your home office.

Tips for organizing your home office:

  • Allocate a designated office space
  • Choose a bright, well-lit area, near a window if possible
  • Use good-quality ergonomic furniture
  • Make sure you have enough storage space for your needs
  • Decorate your room with plants

In addition to the physical layout of your home office, you can reduce the mental shift by organizing your home space to resemble your desk at the office. 

#2: Organise which tasks are suitable for each environment

Shared office space is perfect for presentations, conversations, and collaboration. Team building is vital for creating corporate culture, so keep an overview of everybody’s schedules and plan time in the office for collective brainstorming and group planning. Don’t forget the social side - make sure to chat with a colleague over lunch or arrange an activity to get everybody together after work.

In contrast, working from home is better for getting things done. You can concentrate on making calls, replying to emails, writing reports, analyzing data, and other focused tasks by reducing distractions. If this is not your case, you should learn to organize your tasks and time. Since the pandemic, many organizations have provided time management training to help employees have more productive and balanced remote working days. 

Which environment is better for meetings?

Of course, meetings will take place in both locations but consider which environment works best for each type of meeting. Listening to a guest speaker, team planning, or meetings that require interaction are better suited to the company office, where you can ask questions after the meeting. Office meetings are better if you have specific questions or concerns about a particular task or project.  

However, information sharing and department check-ins work well virtually. Be mindful when planning or attending virtual meetings, as ‘Zoom fatigue’ increases the cognitive load. 

When deciding whether to attend an upcoming meeting virtually or in person, choose the environment best suited for your needs. 

#3: Schedule regular communication

Communication slows down when teams work from multiple locations, even more so if members are in different time zones. Margaret M Luciano, associate professor at Smeal College of Business at Pennsylvania State University, believes that being proactive is critical. She says for hybrid teams to work well, employees must “shoulder some of the responsibility that goes with it, like autonomous problem-solving and providing and checking for updates.”

It is essential to facilitate the effective use of shared platforms and regular video calls for checking in with your colleagues. Be sure to let your boss know what you are working on, how you’re getting on, and - most importantly - communicate any problems or issues as they arise. Learning new communication practices that managers should implement among employees is critical, and many may need communication skills training to establish new habits when working from home.

#4. Set Boundaries

Working from home has many benefits, such as greater flexibility. However, employees work longer working hours when the boundary between work and home-life becomes blurred. For example, somebody who starts early may struggle to switch off the computer at the end of the day, or those who prefer working later in the evenings might not relax before starting work. To avoid burnout, employees must organize their time and consciously consider their mental well-being.

Simple steps to disconnecting when working from home:

  • Create a habit, such as a short walk outside, to signal the start and end of your day
  • Avoid working in relaxing areas, such as the lounge or bedroom
  • Switch off the computer and turn out the lights when the workday ends
  • Mute notifications to your computer and phone

#5. Maintain social connections

Worker disconnect is another concern when employees work from home. Without casual conversations happening before meetings or around the coffee machine, workers can become increasingly isolated. It is essential to form and maintain positive work relationships in a hybrid environment. 

Approach socializing with intent; for example, a five-minute check-in at the beginning or end of the day brings teams together. Team building activities like shared lunches or after-work drinks bring people together when everybody is in the office. Forming trusting relationships provides a support network that you can rely on when working from home.

In conclusion, splitting your work between two (or more) offices does not have to be stressful; you need to put in some groundwork planning accordingly to make better use of your time. 

This is a guest post by writers from Findcourses.co.uk.