Making the Right Choices Going Back to the Office (How to Advance in a Hybrid Environment) Copy
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Making the Right Choices Going Back to the Office (How to Advance in a Hybrid Environment)
By Andrea Zintz, Ph.D., Strategic Leadership Resources, LLC.

Business leaders in almost every organization are planning to get people back to the office regularly. They are currently recruiting new employees. Many companies are creating hybrid environments with people working from both the office and their homes. A hybrid model allows employees to work remotely while others work in the office. But beyond that, there is a lot of uncertainty.

With a hybrid structure, teams or departments are split between working remotely and working in the office, and there is plenty of confusion. Many of us who worked remotely during the pandemic loved working away from the office. We are anxious that employers won’t provide the flexibility we have become accustomed to during the pandemic. For example, several companies want their employees to have at least 4-day weeks in the office. This means that you may not be able to negotiate all that you want.

Moreover, business leaders are feeling the risks as they observe that talent is scarce. According to one study from The Work Trend Index, 40% of people think about leaving their current employer. If you are currently considering a hybrid situation, you wonder how best to create the right balance for your career and personal life. For example, suppose you are not in the office enough. In that case, do you risk reducing your social connections, your credibility, and your opportunities for career growth in exchange for a comfortable home work environment, less commuting, and more time for family and children?

Here are five ways to frame and evaluate the decisions and choices you can make as you return to the office:

1. Consider what you need, what your boss needs for you, and what is required at work.
If you decide to primarily work at home, it will allow you to make choices about balancing the demands of work and what you need at home. In survey after survey, one of the primary reasons people want to get back to the office is to reconnect with colleagues and refresh their relationships. Whether you are an introvert or an extrovert, you need some level of connection and a sense of belonging, so be intentional about fostering essential relationships. Your decision to choose the time for your work in the office can contribute best to your commitment, performance, and relationships among team members.

Another consideration is visibility. While you may love to work at home in your slippers, avoiding the commute, and enjoying the conveniences of the kitchen, staying home can get in the way of your growth and advancement. Working face-to-face is the best way to build relationships, nurture relationship networks, and learn from others. Sure, you can accomplish this virtually, but often the best connections come from running into people at the office or exchanging unexpected ideas while waiting together for the elevator. The benefit of being more present is advancing your career trajectory because you’ll be on the radar for the next cool project or exciting promotion.
Think about the payoff from engaging in person with team members and leaders who may develop you, more effectively mentor, model, and manage you and your team more often. When you collaborate and experience your work together, a sense of higher morale grows, sharing a sense of purpose and the energy of working on something of mutual importance. With this in mind, decide how often you want to be in the office.

2. Prepare to explain the benefits of a hybrid environment to your boss.
While there are many ways that a hybrid schedule will benefit you, it is more effective to explain to your boss how your hybrid schedule can help them. You can be even more persuasive if you use remote work statistics to back up your explanations.

Assuming you’ve been working remotely during most of the pandemic, you have access to plenty of data about your productivity and performance benchmarks while working at home during that time. You can use this to your advantage and collect any data that can reflect an increase in your productivity, collaboration, and so on that occurred while you worked remotely.

3. Time your conversation with your boss thoughtfully and with specificity.
Depending on your situation, you might be able to time the conversation with an upcoming performance review. Or you might wait for a regular one-on-one with your boss to broach the subject of a hybrid environment. But if you can’t wait, schedule a specific time with your boss to discuss it by sending a quick email asking for a date and time to meet to discuss your schedule.

Make your request as specific as possible. For example, if you say, “I want to work at home a few days a week,” your manager might think that one day a week is enough. Instead, give a specific schedule. “I want to work at home on Mondays and Wednesdays.”

Then explain why you chose those days and discuss how it will help the company and your productivity. For example: “Mondays and Wednesdays work best because those are the days I don’t have any team meetings and when I usually do deep work. I’ll be able to get more done at home since I won’t have to worry about the commute or any office distractions.”

Specificity is important. It will help your manager understand that you’ve got a well-thought-out plan. For example, prepare your talking points by jotting down some notes to help you remember what you want to say. Ensure you can explain with clarity how your hybrid schedule will help your boss, the team, and the organization.

4. Practice your pitch in advance.
Ask a trusted colleague or family member to listen to your plan and presentation. Seek honest feedback about your ideas. Are you specific enough? Backing up your request with data? Speaking with confidence?

Your ability to communicate and work effectively with your teammates will be essential to your success. Explain how and when you’ll share your progress and how you’ll collaborate on work-from-home days.

5. Create a sustainable partnership with your boss and be aware of potential burnout.
The good news with a hybrid work model is more freedom about when you can work and where you can work from. This increases autonomy for you and allows you to fit work around the rest of your personal life. However, you must also be wary of burnout. Left unchecked, a culture of overworking can creep into a hybrid workplace model. When working remotely, you may find yourself working longer hours and taking shorter breaks than those of your in-office counterparts. For example, when a flexible worker takes time for themselves in the afternoon—say, to exercise or play with their kids—it can trigger feelings of guilt, which leads to more work, more stress, and ultimately, burnout. Also, consider the risk of how remote work can create more inefficiencies. For example, you can’t just stop at your boss’s office to ask a quick question. Instead, you wind up setting up a meeting, and spending way more time and effort to get something easily handled in two minutes at the office.

Stay self-aware for regular breaks and times to stop working for the day. Be sure to work with your manager to set up concrete and objective goals to measure your productivity and performance and create agreements around potential risks and support addressing burnout. Set up a regular time to meet for discussions about how things are going and the results. While you may not achieve more than 1 day off a week from your employer, you may get some flexibility from your boss through the way you address your perspective and reasoning.

The Work Trend Index:

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