Hacking Hybrid: Working Better at Home and at the Office
Excel as a hybrid worker by maximizing the best parts of each work environment.
Updated June 22, 2023 | Reviewed by Abigail Fagan
- Hybrid work is now an established norm. But practices for doing it well are still in their early stages.
- Each work environment offers different advantages and challenges. Hybrid workers need to excel in each.
- Workers can observe and note how they thrive and where they struggle when at the office and when at home.
Hybrid work has been dominating conversations for the last couple of years as a revolution in how we work. Although many employers have not embraced full-time remote work, most experts agree that a part remote, part on-site work arrangement will become a long-term reality for many workers. However, there is far more to a successful hybrid arrangement (for employers and employees) than simply setting basic rules around how often to come into the office. And while employers are making some progress in establishing hybrid work best practices, there is a lot more to be done to make it effective for everyone. But in the meantime, employees can do a lot to help themselves. Key to success is understanding how to maximize productivity and well-being in both spaces.
Do you work best at the office? At home? Probably both
You can learn from your days at home and your days at the office. The truth is, for most people, there will be advantages to both arrangements. Certainly, if you live 50 miles or more from your office, the benefits might be severely outweighed by the inconvenience. But most of us can be more thoughtful about how we work throughout the day in each setting, and what is most challenging and most productive. Then, we can try to learn from those observations.
What do you do best and where?
One easy way to understand how and where you do your best work is to keep a journal. When you are at the office, make a note of what you were able to accomplish that you couldn’t do at home. For example, did you have an informal chat with your manager? Did you finally meet a new hire that you only had seen on Zoom? Was the office quieter than your home office and allow for more productivity? Does the office have resources (printer, better wi-fi, special equipment) that help you do your job better? You may want to start organizing your tasks so that you can do the things that leverage those resources at the office. For example, you could coordinate your time at the office with people who you wouldn’t normally get to build relationships with via Zoom calls. You could make a point of trying to get a coffee chat with someone more senior. Or you could just plan your most difficult tasks for when you can enjoy the quiet/better wi-fi/free printing services at the office.
Try to bring some of the learnings to the opposite space
Just because you can’t enjoy all of the benefits of the office at home doesn’t mean you can’t try to better replicate some of them. Maybe you notice that the commute to the office seems to help you mentally transition to a work headspace (and then back to a home headspace). You can try to build into your work from home days a 20-minute walk around the block before you begin work to set up your mental “work zone.” Similarly, you might listen to a podcast (that isn’t work related) at the end of the day before you engage with roommates or your partner or children. The point is to replicate that same space and time between leaving the office and entering home life that gives your mind a mental rest to refresh and refocus. If you noticed the quiet of the office helped improve your focus, consider a more diligent effort to create quiet at home. Even if it means you only work at the kitchen table when the house is empty but move to a bedroom before everyone comes home. It might seem silly not to just power through the noise and distractions of home, but you’re doing yourself a disservice not to lean into what makes you most productive.
Don’t underestimate the emotional benefits of each space
While it certainly will make you a better employee to understand how resources, networking opportunities, and productivity are impacted by your different work environments, be sure to also understand your emotional well-being. Do you feel more energized at work, surrounded by other people focused on the same goals? Do you find you’re less stressed at home, where you can take frequent breaks or make healthier lunches? You can’t necessarily replicate all the upsides emotionally (or avoid the pitfalls) when you are in the other space, but you can become more aware so that you can prepare yourself. Maybe you need to use more productivity and focusing tools when you’re at home to be more efficient. Or maybe instead of working from home, you would perform better spending part of the day at a coffee shop where the noise and bustle provides the sense of energy you crave. The point is to learn to work differently – and hopefully better – by truly taking the both of best worlds that hybrid work life can offer.