Learning & Development

6 Steps to Being Productive in a Hybrid Work Environment

Many workers are returning to a hybrid environment in the post-pandemic world. That means they are working from their home office part of the week and in the office for the other part of the week. Without the right approach, this can cause havoc on your calendar, which for many people serves as a roadmap to their day.

remote work productivityMaking the Most of Your Time

To make the most of your time and gain control of your calendar, execute the following steps:

  1. Be consistent about your days in the office
  2. Block time for your most important goals
  3. Block time to connect with others outside of regular meetings
  4. Block time for yourself
  5. Color-code your calendar
  6. Utilize all-day events

Be Consistent about your days in the office. We become our daily habits. When we can be consistent about our days in the office, the people we work with know when to expect us. This will make it easier to schedule in person meetings. Creating this consistency will give you a sense of control and lower your stress levels. Especially during stressful times when the world around you seems to be crumbling, having a consistent daily practice will keep you centered.

Block time for your most important goals. Your goals become a reality when you schedule them on your calendar. If you don’t schedule your goals, you are leaving it up to chance when you will work on them. For example, let’s assume you have a goal to hire three new people. You could block an hour every day for that purpose. One day it may be to review resumes, another day may be to schedule interviews, then time for interviews and follow-ups Goals progress when you work on them consistently every day. The goal becomes your focus, and you get even more creative about achieving it.

Block time to connect with others outside of regular meetings. If meetings are the only way you are connecting with colleagues, clients, vendors, you may be missing a deeper relationship. I have a client who shared with me that the main benefit he is getting from being back in the office is informal chatter in the hallways or break room. You could leave it up to chance, and you have a better possibility of connecting when you know when you are going to do it.

Block time for yourself. The most productive people have a consistent morning routine. Again, we become our daily habits. It may be time to evaluate your morning routine. You may consider things like drink water, meditate, exercise, ask yourself powerful questions.  There is a great deal of research to support this. For example, at General Mills, employees who attended only one program on mindfulness meditation reported a significant increase in productivity: 83 percent of participants said they were taking time each day to optimize their personal productivity—up from 23 percent before the course, and 82 percent said they were now making time to eliminate tasks with limited productivity value—up from 32 percent before the course. (David Gelles, “The Mind Business,” Financial Times, August 24, 2012, ft.com/content/d9cb7940-ebea-11e1-985a-00144feab49a.).

Color-code your calendar. A neat trick I use on my calendar is to color by category. For example, you may want to color code by client, or by type of work. I have a color for writing time, client time, travel, for example. When you setup your calendar this way, it allows you to see where you are investing your time, and make appropriate adjustments.

Utilize all-day events. Most calendar tools (Outlook, Gmail, Apple) allow you to create an all-day event. Of course, they can be used for exactly that. If you have an all-day event, it will block your calendar appropriately. Most of the time, however, even your all-day events are timed (e.g. 9:00-5:00). You can also use this feature as a day-specific reminder. For example, Fred’s birthday, Sue’s anniversary. It will act as a reminder to acknowledge the special event. Or you could use it to remind you that a team member or significant other is out of town that day, that week. One more way to do it is to track an important deadline. In fact, “deadline” triggers Outlook to color that event as red. This way, it will stand out and allow you to see in advance the forthcoming deadline. Make sure, when you do use all-day events, that you show as “free” so that colleagues don’t presume you have something else scheduled.

When you apply these six steps, you will gain control of your calendar. This is more important now in a hybrid work environment where routines can be more challenging to maintain.

Don Khouri, PhD is a speaker, author, and executive coach who helps people reclaim their time. His forthcoming book is When to Say Yes.