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Karin And David’s Leadership Articles

As You Return to the Office, Make a Deliberate Plan

You’ve learned a lot about how you work and what makes you most productive over the last year. You had more choices on how to structure your day, when (and with whom) to engage. You figured out what worked best for you. The return to the office can feel as overwhelming as that initial, emergency pivot to working from home.

7 Tips for staying productive as you return to the office (or move to hybrid work.)

    1. Inventory what made your work from home time so productive.
    2. Talk with your team and make a plan to support one another.
    3. Leverage your commute.
    4. Be deliberate about what work you do where.
    5. Consider quiet hours for focused work.
    6. Invest in strategic relationships.
    7. Learn, iterate and adjust.

How to Build Your Return to the Office Plan

1. Inventory what made your work from home time so productive.

Our guess is you weren’t radically more productive the first few weeks you suddenly had to work from home. But you figured it out. The trick here is to learn from your learning. How did you structure your day? How did you communicate with your team during the pandemic?  Did you get up earlier? Take more frequent breaks? Did you take time out for a walk at lunchtime to just refresh and think?

A return to the office does not necessarily mean you need to go back to all your old patterns and habits. Figure out what works best for you and your team, and then determine how you can incorporate some of that into your new routine.

2. Talk with your team and make a plan to support one another.

Here’s the good news. Everyone is thinking about how they can return to the office without adding hours to their day. No one on your team wants to be less productive.

Stay productiveThis is the perfect time to communicate with your team (even if you’re not the boss) about what is working and how to work even more effectively and efficiently with one another.

We’ve built a FREE hybrid and virtual teams assessment to help you get the conversation going.

3. Leverage your commute.

When the pandemic first started, many managers we spoke with shared how much they missed the “time to think” or listen to a podcast.

Yes, commute time can be a huge time suck, but it can also be focused time to invest well. Consider how you might leverage your commute through value-added activities to work on your personal development, make a few calls (safely) to catch up with colleagues or friends, or even just have the white space to think quietly about the day and week ahead.

4. Be deliberate about what work you do where.

If you’re spending some time in the office, and other days at home, work to be deliberate in your time blocking. The news is full of examples of frustrating employees talking about quitting their jobs because a return to the office mandate feels like a frustrating waste of time.

Of course, your return to in-person work will be frustrating if you head to your cube and join a Zoom call with the people sitting in the cube next door.

Talk with your manager and co-workers about how you can best leverage the time you do have in the office for deeper collaboration and innovation. Then, do what you can to plan your deeper thinking or individual project work for the time you have at home.

5. Consider quiet hours (or open-office hours) to focus your work.

A best practice we are seeing with our clients planning their return to the office strategy is carving out “quiet hours” with no meetings and/or open-office hours where employees can “drop by” virtually or in-person to share ideas, brainstorm, or even get a quick response to a problem.

This time use of time blocking can help overcome the biggest fear we’re hearing from so many managers who are contemplating a return to the office: the fear of perpetual drop-by disruptions on non-urgent matters.

6. Invest in strategic relationships.

Even with a focused, deliberate effort to build trust and establish strategic relationships, most managers tell us they really miss the deeper conversations and spontaneous relationship-building that comes from in-person work.

Leverage your in-person time to work on a few key relationships. This is a great time to find (or become a mentor). Or to work on your relationship with a challenging boss.

And, of course, if you’ve ever taken one of our leadership training programs, you know how passionate we are about building strong, collaborative peer relationships. Consider how you might leverage your in-person time, to invest in your relationship with others as you build your return to the office strategy.

7. Learn, iterate and adjust.

Virtual Leadership Training For Human Centered LeadersJust like it took a minute to figure out how to be productive working from home, with the kids playing the ukelele in the next room with their virtual school on mute, your return to the office plan will take time to get right.

Talk with your manager and your human resources partners about what is working and what support you most need.

Try some of these suggestions. Figure out what works best for you and your team. Keep the conversation going. Iterate, and adjust.

Your turn.

We would love to hear from you. What best practices are you finding work well as you return to the office?

Note: If you prefer a video version of this article to share with your team check out this Asking For a Friend on Staying Productive. 

2 Comments

  1. Joe Tartaglia

    Hi Karin, a great guide for returning to the office and leveraging the opportunity to find a new and improved office experience. I for one enjoy the hybrid environment that my position allows, but I do appreciate the commute time to catch up on books I’ve fallen behind on or chatting with family members.

    Reply
    • Karin Hurt

      Thanks so much, Joe. We’ve been enjoying a return to some of our leadership programs returning to in-person with a nice mix of our live-online delivery as well. It’s so interesting to see how each organization is approaching this evolution.

      Reply

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Karin Hurt and David Dye

Karin Hurt and David Dye help human-centered leaders resolve workplace ambiguity and chaos, so that they can drive innovation, productivity and revenue without burning out employees. As CEO and President of Let’s Grow Leaders, they are known for practical tools and leadership development programs that stick. Karin and David are the award-winning authors of five books including, Courageous Cultures: How to Build Teams of Micro-Innovators, Problem Solvers, and Customer Advocates and Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results-Without Losing Your Soul A former Verizon Wireless executive, Karin was named to Inc. Magazine’s list of great leadership speakers. David Dye is a former executive and elected official. Karin and David are committed to their philanthropic initiative, Winning Wells – building clean water wells for the people of Cambodia.

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