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08/12/2020

Your guide to navigating blended working in 2021.

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Some people who were able to continue working through the pandemic will recall the sudden transition to remote working earlier this year. From March onwards, it felt like a rollercoaster of ‘all of a sudden’ moments. All of a sudden… we went from dual screens and a stand-up desk to a laptop, active wear and poor ergonomics in our lounge room. All of a sudden… we were using our lunch break to wash, sort and fold our laundry. All of a sudden… we were enjoying (or perhaps enduring) virtual Friday drinks.

We quickly realised the way we work will never be the same again.

So, what does our next normal look like in a post-Covid world? We call it blended working, and we believe it is here to stay.

Blended working is a hybrid of remote and in-person working. It’s the ‘work from anywhere’ concept and it has huge benefits when it comes to flexibility and wellbeing. But there are also challenges in this approach to work.

As business leaders plan for this post-Covid work environment, so can you. Here are our 3 strategies to help you maximise the advantages of blended working in 2021.

1. Set boundaries

Good boundaries are essential in any work environment if we want to perform our role effectively over the long term. But they aren’t easy.

Blended working makes this challenge even more difficult, particularly when working from home where there is no clean transition from ‘work mode’ to ‘home mode’. 

When we’re working remotely for a few days a week, our manager has less in-person visibility of our work. This can often lead us to feel the need to put in longer hours in an effort to show that we’re adding value. Over time leading to unhealthy habits of being ‘on’ endlessly.  

By developing your own end of day routine with a visual signal that helps you switch off, you can overcome this challenge.

Maybe it's putting your laptop in the car out of immediate reach. Or perhaps it’s turning off the email notifications on your iPhone. Another idea is to close the door on your home office, and not open it again until you clock on tomorrow morning.

Whatever it looks like for you, establish an end of day routine and repeat it. Setting healthy boundaries will ensure you sustain high performance over the long term.

2. Seek out opportunities for connection

Having a sense of connection and community is crucial for our engagement and job satisfaction. And whilst many of us would have experienced feelings of isolation while working remotely, in a world of blended working the experience of being in the office can be equally lonely with more of our team mates adopting flexible work arrangements.

When there are less people in the office at the same time, there are less opportunities for organic connection. And if you’re anything like us, you’re missing the spontaneous lunchroom catch ups about your weekend away and the corridor banter about the new guy that started working at the coffee shop downstairs.

After a while this lack of informal connection can also impact future career opportunities.

To minimise the risk, here are our ideas for proactively building connection in a blended work environment:

  • Arrive to online meetings a few minutes early. You never know who else will be there before the meeting starts and it is the perfect substitute for the small talk you would normally make when grabbing a cup of tea.
  • Use instant messaging to create new connections. If you’ve seen someone in another department do something well, send them an encouraging message to let them know. Everyone loves a little praise and it builds your internal network. Win-win!
  • If you’re craving office banter set up a memes channel with your peers to keep the good vibes alive.  

3. Test and learn: find a weekly routine that works for you

Blended work offers us much more autonomy and flexibility. But while these things are important for our sense of wellbeing, they can cause a sense of discomfort at first. Having a consistent routine helps to manage this discomfort and increase productivity.

As you take time to adjust to your new weekly routine, adopt an experimental mindset. Don’t expect to nail it first go. Test, learn and try different things until you discover what routine enables you to be your most productive self.

If you want to work 60% of the week from the office, try to pick days that will allow you to maximise collaborative time in-person with your team. If after a month the days you chose don’t link easily with your family life, change up the combination until you find the best fit.

For the days that you’re working remotely, self-accountability is crucial. Maximise each day by scheduling your tasks using your calendar and be sure to allocate time to perform deep work when your brain is fresh. For some of us that is first thing in the morning, and for the rest of us it is a second wind after lunch. Either way, we recommend aiming to knock over the toughest tasks first. You'll feel a sense of momentum and achievement that will influence your whole week.

Most importantly, keep dialogue with your manager and peers open as you test, learn, settle in, and find your flow. They will probably be searching for their own sense of balance too.

If there’s one thing we learnt from 2020, it’s that there is no set future. But we also learnt that we can quickly grow, adapt and change. As we look toward 2021, it’s clear that blended working is here to stay, so why not test out these strategies and maximise the advantages of your next normal.  

Emily Bowen and Shelley Johnson are HR professionals and host the my millennial career podcast. For more on making a career change, check out their episode ‘Quarter Life Career Crisis’.  

This article is intended to provide general information of an educational nature only. Information in this article is current as at the date of publication. We do not recommend any third party products or services and we are not liable in relation to them.

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