6 Productivity Tips for Your New Hybrid Work Life

The pandemic forced many career office workers to learn to do their jobs from home. But now that a lot of companies are welcoming staff back into the office, some are setting up hybrid work arrangements to allow employees to continue to work remotely, at least part-time.

Having two different workspaces—one at home and the other at the office—has its perks, but there are also many challenges. How do you keep up your momentum and productivity when you’re switching locations? How can you stay organized and ensure that everything you need (files, devices, and tech accessories, and personal items) is available all the time?

I can help. I’ve spent over a decade working remotely while going into the office occasionally. These are the tips I’ve learned along the way.

1. Replicate your work office’s setup at home.

Working at your desk should feel natural and comfortable, no matter where you are. One way to reduce the friction that comes with maintaining multiple workspaces is to make the different work environments match as closely as you can—especially in terms of organization and ergonomics.

In his e-book How to Set Up Your Desk, Matt Perman recommends mirroring your desk set up in both places. For example, if you have a paper inbox and phone on the left side of your desk and a filing cabinet to the right at the office, set up your home office similarly. If you keep certain supplies in specific desk drawers, maintain that same organization everywhere. You might go as far as having the same monitor, keyboard, and even furniture at home. It might not be possible to make everything match, but when your desk layout is similar in both places, it’s easier to transition between home and office.

In the same vein, if at work your company provides snacks and drinks that you enjoy (bottomless LaCroix is a wonderful perk), consider keeping a stash of the same treats at home. Consistency and familiarity help our brains focus on the important stuff.

2. Invest in mobile accessories.

Buying a second laptop charger and leaving it in my laptop bag changed my life in a small but meaningful way—I no longer had to crawl under my desk to unplug or plugin my charger whenever I went to the office.

If you have a dedicated desk at the office, you can keep duplicates of your laptop charger, external keyboard, mouse, and other accessories (like a USB hub) there, to avoid having to lug everything back and forth. Your company might buy or reimburse you for those essentials, too. If you don’t have a permanent desk at work, keep these items in your “go bag” to save some time in the morning when you’re getting ready.

3. Go paperless as much as possible.

Some industries still depend on paper files, and if yours is among them, there’s no getting around the hassle of hauling those files back and forth between home and the office. But if you’re able to go paperless and haven’t done so yet, now’s a great time.

Our pick for the best mobile scanning appAdobe Scan (iOS, Android), is free and snappy. A portable document scanner, like the Brother ADS-1250W, is even faster to use and doesn’t have a large footprint. With one of these tools, you can store documents in the cloud to easily access and share from anywhere.

4. Create time blocks to manage your days.

A screenshot of a calendar app, showing a work week with color-coded blocked out times for various activities.

On the days you work remotely, it might be tempting to wake up later because you don’t have to commute. Conversely, you might find yourself working later. Instead, try to keep a consistent schedule, and dedicate that “extra” non-commuting time to doing things that fuel your brain and happiness. That might be listening to podcasts, exercising, working on a passion project, or spending more time with your family. Block out those times on your calendar to commit to this practice.

Because the energy at the company office can be different from the work-from-home vibe, plan out your tasks in advance based on where you’ll be working. If you have flexibility on what you do each day, create theme days for better focus. If you work from home on Mondays and Fridays, for example, you might set aside those days for deep, focused work and the other days for in-person meetings or other collaborative tasks.

If it’s important for your boss or co-workers to know when you’re at the office or at home—to plan in-person meetings, for example—update your calendar and Slack or Microsoft Teams status to reflect that. If your company uses Slack, you can do this automatically by syncing your Google or Outlook Calendar. Or you can update your work profile to note your WFH and in-office days.

5. Stay connected to your co-workers.

On the days you work from home, you might feel isolated, especially if some of your co-workers are at the office when you aren’t. When you’re not at the office, make an effort to be more sociable over your company’s team chat tool to keep the spirit of teamwork alive. Perhaps start a weekly game everyone can play remotely on their own time. For example, at my previous job, my fully remote team played games like Two Truths and a Lie and a version of the Pictionary-like game Telestrations. There are several apps you can connect to Slack for virtual team-building.

On days when you go to the office, make the most of being in person with your teammates by setting up lunch dates or leaving your desk to deliver a message instead of using email or chat. Some companies don’t assign dedicated desks at work on purpose, so that staff can move around to different desks and get to know more people; find out whether this is an option for you.

6. If you’re a manager, set clear expectations about hybrid work.

Ask your team what questions they have about the logistics of working from home part-time. For example, they might want to know whether they’ll be required to be available for in-person meetings or activities, or if they’ll be able to change their in-office schedule on a weekly basis. Then set up a hybrid work policy to address their questions and concerns and make sure everyone understands what’s expected.

One common challenge with hybrid work arrangements is making sure everyone has access to the same information. It’s easy for in-office communication to leave out those who are working from home. Develop a plan to avoid this issue. For example, set rules against impromptu meetings at the office if key employees aren’t able to join in the conversation remotely. Encourage asynchronous communication where team members can discuss matters without the expectation that they have to answer right away. Use project management tools like Basecamp and Trello to keep notes, files, and other resources in one central location.

This might sound strange, but if you have meetings where some people are at the office and some are working from home, encourage everyone at the office to log in from their individual computers, rather than from one room. This way, remote workers will be less likely to feel like they’re missing out.

Finally, hybrid work is new territory for most people, so keep experimenting with your team.