For many workers, the office is going to play a different role when they return.
Many companies are adopting a hybrid work model, where employees split their time between the office and home. And employees and their managers should expect that it’s going to take some time to adjust to this new way of working.
“It shouldn’t feel surprising that this is hard and a little weird and requires a lot of thought process,” said Katy Tynan, principal analyst at Forrester. She added that it will likely take six to 12 months for employees to adjust after starting a new a hybrid model.
Here’s how to optimize your time spent in the office.
In-person interaction is important for building relationships, but not everyone is going to be around all the time in a hybrid environment, so you have to be more proactive about coordinating days in the office and scheduling meetings to make sure you are in the office at the same time as your manager or your colleagues when necessary.
“Get face time with people you need to develop deeper relationships with,” said Kimberly Cummings, author of “Next Move, Best Move: Transitioning into a Career You’ll Love.”
She suggested reaching out to your team members, managers, mentors and sponsors to set up in-person time.
“You aren’t going to make the most of your time if you walk into the office and just hope things work out,” she said. “You have to schedule things.”
Save office communication with your manager for more in-depth conversations rather than giving a general update on the tasks you are working on, Cummings recommended.
“If you have a project that has been complex and you need to brainstorm and go deeper with your leader use that time for that, or deeper career conversations.”
Don’t focus on individual tasks
Certain tasks can be more easily done in the office.
“Home is really great for quiet, individual work,” said Nick Bloom, professor of economics at Stanford University. “Reading, writing reports, doing emails, expense reports, that stuff is all best left for home.”
For your days in the office, he suggested focusing on tasks that require working with others – particularly large groups – and making interpersonal connections.
“It is clear for individual tasks or for one-on-one meetings that are structured, working from home is probably better,” said Bloom. “What doesn’t work well is unstructured social time.”
Hold the right meetings
Some meetings just work better when everyone is in the same room.
“Zoom fatigue is a real thing, our brains do get tired in a way when we’re doing remote and virtual stuff that they don’t when we’re doing in-person things,” said Tynan. “I might allow myself to have more meetings in the office rather than if I am at home.”
But you don’t want to spend your entire day in the office stuck in meetings.
Cummings advised using in-person meetings to present a new idea, or when trying to build rapport with new people.
Reading the room and picking up on non-verbal cues tends to be harder on video meetings.
Larger group meetings also work better in person, according to Bloom, while meetings with two to four people are usually better suited for a video call.
“Video calls are very good for transactional meetings,” he said, like when you want to discuss a document or have a PowerPoint you want to get through.
Be out and about
Don’t come into the office and hide away all day.
“A lot of the benefit of being there in person is being available for spontaneous meetings,” said Bloom. “Sitting in the open plan areas is the best thing to do.”
Social relationships that we had built up among colleagues have likely eroded over the last year and half – use the time in the office to re-establish connections, allow people to see you and stop by for a chat.
And don’t be shy about setting up coffee runs or lunches.
“It’s fine being explicit that this is 45 minutes of catch up social time,” said Bloom. “Hybrid is not the way things used to be and so we are going to have to be more deliberate about scheduling social time in the office.”