remote working

Hybrid Work: Do we need to “switch off” when working remotely?

For a lot of people, working remotely provides an opportunity for deep work. This means people have the ability to focus and concentrate in a way they might not typically be able to at the office. Though this may not be the case for everyone, depending on individual remote work settings, if hybrid work is the so-called wave of the future, this begs a very important question: should the majority of work done at home be a chance for distraction-free, intense focus; and the office be a place for socialization and collaboration? Read on as we delve a bit deeper into this question.

A recent BBC article written by Christine Ro provides an eloquent breakdown of the changes in the different ways that work is being done, both remotely and in an office setting. Ro’s article reads, “A common procedure of existing hybrid companies, accelerated since the pandemic started, is to designate certain days for in-office meetings and collaboration, and remote days for work involving individual focus. Physical presence might be required for orientations, team-building and project kick-offs, but not necessarily for other work.

“We try to use home working days less for video sessions and more for the tasks that require concentration. A task that may take several hours in the office may be completed in just an hour or two at home,” says Baruch Silverman, founder of the personal finance website The Smart Investor. His company, which is based in Los Angeles, went hybrid in June. On the other hand, the company aims for sharing and synchronization on the days when employees come into the office together.”

Smartway2 enables you to implement hybrid working with ease. To see for yourself how to create a touchless, on-demand, adaptive workplace, book a demo.

Limiting Distractions

There are a lot of distractions that come up when working, whether in-person or remotely, many of which are actually related to your jobs, such as email or messaging apps, video or conference calls and coworkers looking to socialize. But, if we want our employees to truly focus when working, should we reset the expectations of what it means to be “on the clock” and allow them to essentially switch off from these devices at times in a hybrid work environment?

In a world where the traditional 9 to 5 in-office model is being flipped on its head, perhaps the answer is, yes.

For employees, this might mean reaching an arrangement with their boss where they are allotted a certain amount of time to completely disconnect in order to focus and get their work done. Or, for managers, this might mean proactively building time into your employees’ schedules so they can unplug to prevent any interruptions.

Even better, is an autonomous approach, whereby employees are trusted to decide for themselves when they need to disconnect, in order to complete a chunk of deep work.

Looking for more ways to limit distractions? Here’s a great list put together by Olivia Krauth for TechRepublic, an online trade publication and social community for IT professionals, with the following list of 11 ways to eliminate distractions:

  • Play background music
  • Break up your work
  • Use a calendar or to-do list
  • Get dressed
  • Leave the house (for short breaks)
  • Create a set office
  • Batch tasks
  • Post your schedule
  • Know your distractions
  • Deal with your personal phone (This might include turning off your phone during working hours or keeping it in a place where you won’t be tempted)
  • Use visual tools to stay organized

Use Office Time for Collaboration

Gartner, a global research and advisory firm, reports that 74% of CFO and finance leaders intend to shift some employees to remote work permanently. That’s nearly three out of every four surveyed and constitutes a dramatic shift in the post-pandemic workplace. If you’re among those planning to embrace hybrid work, it will mean re-imagining how your office space is used when employees do return to the physical workspace, because no longer will everyone require individual offices five days per week. This is especially true for companies that will have employees use their time in an office setting to focus on collaboration and socialization as opposed to deep work.

Microsoft has embraced this hybrid style of work for their own employees, has published many blogs on the subject. An article by Jared Spataro, Corporate Vice President for Microsoft 365, says, “From here on out, we will no longer rely solely on physical spaces to collaborate, connect, and build social capital. But space will still be important. We’re social animals and we want to get together, bounce ideas off one another, and experience the energy of in-person events. Moving forward, office space needs to bridge the physical and digital worlds and meet the unique needs of every team—and specific roles.”

The BBC article we referenced earlier by Christine Ro, quotes Anita Williams Woolley of Carnegie Mellon University, who researches organizational behaviour. According to Woolley, she “believes that it makes sense for organisations to evaluate their space and consider downsizing, but without eliminating meeting space. ‘If anything I’d keep the conference room, maybe get rid of some of the cubicles that nobody likes anyway, and invest in the private workspaces for the people that need to be in the office.’”

Hybrid work success tips

Having a clear strategy and guidelines in place for employees can help ensure a smooth transition for your company to a successful hybrid working environment. As many employees and employers have learned over the past year, when it comes to changing the physical location of where we do work, the modality we perform work and the times we are working, it’s very important for everyone to be on the same page.

Nifty, a remote collaboration hub, put together this list of four tips that we found particularly useful:

  • Clear Communication and Expectations
  • Supporting Mental Health & Inclusion
  • Level the Playing Field With Technology
  • Don’t Be Afraid to Make Adjustments

Trello, a list-making application, published the following advice by Kat Boogard:

  • Foster a remote-first culture

To put it simply, this approach makes remote work the default for your team. People are able to successfully do their jobs from anywhere. Even if you have employees who are working on-site, focusing on remote work helps you get the right systems and processes in place to enable your entire team to do great work—whether they’re working at the desk next to you or across the world. 

  • Trust Your Employees to Fulfill Expectations

A results-based culture is the best fit for a hybrid team. This requires you to place the emphasis on what your employees are producing, and less on the details of how they’re doing it. 

  • Regularly Offer and Solicit Feedback

With all of your employees, schedule a recurring one-on-one meeting (at least once per month) where you can connect about their daily work, challenges, and their broader career goals. 

  • Provide Opportunities for Social Connection

The relationships we share with the people we work with have a huge impact on our happiness, performance, and even stress levels.

Gallup research found that women who strongly agree they have a best friend at work are more than twice as likely to be engaged than women who say otherwise. 

Smartway2 is a leading WorkTech company that transforms workplace experience, by enabling people to book desks, spaces and any other office facilities in advance – generating utilization data that powers continuous improvement.

Stefania Vatidis

Stefania Vatidis

Last updated April 9, 2021