How to Thrive in a Hybrid Work Environment, According to Career Experts

published Aug 1, 2021
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If you’ve been working from home for the past year and a half, it’s likely that you’ve invested in a work-from-home space that also works for you. But now, many companies are beginning to open their doors and request that employees return to the office. What are you to do, especially if your employer has also implemented a “hybrid” work environment? Is it possible to blend working from home with a few days in the office each week without forgetting key paperwork or passwords in one place or another? 

If you’ve been WFH and your office is now requiring a hybrid schedule, you’re probably wondering how to balance the shift from home office to IRL office a few times a week. But there are ways to set yourself up for work success when traveling between your at-home workspace to the world of commutes, cubicles, and conference rooms. These expert tips will help you thrive in a hybrid work environment so you can stay on top of your to-do list and feel more comfortable with the changes.

Make a list (and, yes, check it twice).

Considering your now-frequent location swapping, life and career coach Phoebe Gavin recommends creating a physical checklist of all of the items you need for your job, whether at home or the office, that you can refer to regularly. That way, you won’t forget your meeting notes or laptop charger at work or head into the office without your planner. “The human brain was not meant to remember lists,” she explains. 

Pack your bag the night before.

Got your checklist of items? Good. Now, don’t scramble for whatever you put on it in the morning, when you’re more likely to feel groggy and disconnected. “You really need to have a solid work bag situation,” says Gavin. Find one that can comfortably carry whatever you need at both locations — computer, coffee mug, your day planner, any chargers, and so on. 

Then, on days when you work from home, pack up that bag as soon as you wrap up for the day and leave it by the front door. Bonus: By doing this, you’ll create a clear end to the workday on the days when you don’t otherwise have one via a commute. “[Think of it as] work goes in the corner so you can enjoy personal time and space,” says Gavin. “That will be so much better for your mental health.”

Credit: Carina Romano

Don’t feel like you need to haul everything back and forth. 

In the year-plus you may have been working from home, you’ve likely found items that help optimize your work performance, whether that’s a favorite pen, a great notebook, or a lumbar support pillow. Rather than stuffing all of these products into the aforementioned bag each night, consider buying a few extra pens to have at each desk, getting another water bottle so you don’t need to worry about carrying one back and forth, or even keeping the same framed photo of your pet nearby at both locations. 

“Don’t feel pressured to replicate everything about your work office or home office, but pay attention to what is supportive to you,” says Gavin. Having these items in both spots could help you feel more settled and at ease in what could be a nerve-wracking time.

If you can, optimize your schedule.

Not every hybrid employee is able to pick which days they’ll spend in each location, but if you have the chance to, plan your days for how you work best and can make the most of each situation. 

“Schedule as many of your intense, collaborative meetings as possible for your in-office days,” advises time management expert and author Laura Vanderkam. “Also, use your in-office days for socializing. Schedule those lunches with colleagues, take the interns out for coffee, throw a work happy hour.” 

Vanderkam recommends using at-home days for what she calls “deep work” — things like creative work, strategic thinking, and tasks on which you really need to focus. “Home office environments let you work how you work best, so if you get into a groove listening to a certain kind of music, or work better at a certain temperature, make the most of that,” she explains.

Credit: Liz Calka

Reduce office distractions.

Transitioning back from a full-time home office to spending a lot of time in a space filled with chatty coworkers and conference calls can be overwhelming. Gavin suggests using headphones or ear plugs to disconnect from the sounds around you if you need a break. “Even if you thrive on office energy and people around you, your brain isn’t used to that level anymore, so give yourself time to ease back into that environment,” she advises. 

Ask for help. 

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the transition back to the office, share your feelings with a trusted coworker or your manager. Chances are you’re not alone! 

“Communication is really important,” says Gavin. “Ask the people you’re working with about how they’re experiencing the return back to the office and if they have tips. People will have challenges — it’s new and weird for all of us.”