For some employees, working in the office Monday through Friday will be a thing of the past. As offices reopen, many are turning to a hybrid model that allows people to work in the office some days and at home for others.
While being able to work remotely offers more flexibility, there’s going to be a learning curve, for both workers and their employers.
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“We are still in the grand experiment,” said Steve Cadigan, founder of Cadigan Talent Ventures and a former human resources executive. “Employees should not have an expectation that their employer has got it all worked out.”
And while managers play an integral role in the success of a sustainable hybrid team, employees will also need to make adjustments in how they work.
For many companies, having a hybrid workforce is going to be new so workers should be prepared to be flexible.
Hybrid policies can vary: Some companies might mandate a set number of days to be in the office, while others might leave it entirely up to workers. And there will likely be adjustments from both employers and employees as this new phase plays out.
“We are going to figure this out as we go,” said Cadigan. “We are going to learn, we are going to get smarter and we are going to tune it.”
To get a better sense of their manager’s comfort level, Cadigan advised employees to ask questions like: What does a successful hybrid work reality look like for you? What are the unknowns that concern you?
Be prepared for changes to the model as routines become more settled and everyone gets more comfortable.
“Try to refrain from committing to something before you have information. What you don’t know yet is, what is the purpose of going into the office and what work is best done there and what work is best done at home? That is going to take time to work out,” said Cadigan.
Make schedules clear
Some workers want to spend the majority of their time in the office while others plan to make only occasional appearances.
Before settling on a definite schedule, consult with your manager on expectations. It can help to align days in the office with your manager’s schedule and other colleagues you work frequently with.
“If you are at home 70% of the time and all the people who can affect your future career are there all the time, there is some benefit to being where those people are,” said Marie McIntyre, a career coach and author of “Secrets to Winning Office Politics.”
Having a set schedule of office and remote days can help with planning.
“Most of us at work are calendar-driven,” McIntyre said. “Have some predictable times so people know when they are going to see you.”
Optimize your days in the office
Employees who plan to be mostly remote should make sure they are making the most of their time in the office.
“You need to stack your day,” said Kimberly Cummings, author of “Next, Best Move: Transitioning into a Career You’ll Love.” That can mean scheduling plans like coffee chats, team meetings and one-on-ones with your boss.
And don’t hide away in an office, she added.
“Work in an open space, make sure you can see individuals walking in and out, say hello, introduce yourself…. that quick interaction to reinforce that you are the person they speak with over email so much.”
But don’t over-schedule office days so there’s no room for impromptu relationship-building.
Spontaneous social interactions, like hallway run-ins and pre-meeting chatter, tend not to happen much when working remote. “You don’t just randomly Zoom somebody,” said Cadigan.
“The informal moments are when our guard is down, it’s less of a structured program setting and that is when people are more likely to say how they really feel about something.”
Make yourself seen — even if you’re remote
Workers who are in the office less than their peers and get less face time with the boss can be at a disadvantage.
“It’s obviously a lot easier to communicate with and interact with and get to know people that you actually see,” said McIntyre.
Make sure there’s a clear understanding of key performance metrics and priorities, and set up reoccurring meetings, whether in the office or virtually, for feedback and to give progress reports and updates.
And don’t be shy about detailing accomplishments. It can can be as simple as sending an email.
“Document your accomplishments,” said Sara Sutton, CEO and founder of FlexJobs. “It’s being really clear and aligned on what your performance goals are and making sure that those are things that are communicated to your manager.”
Be the initiator
Be proactive when it comes to communicating, collaborating and providing status updates.
“You have to have assertive communication,” said Cummings. That can mean frequent check-ins via Slack to make sure a project is on track, setting reminders to follow-up on ideas from a meeting or setting up feedback sessions.
“Make sure people know what your status is and you know what their status is,” Cummings added, “especially when working cross-functionally to achieve a common goal or wrap up a project.”