Learning to work remotely was a crash course for most professionals; they did it in survival mode. Few had the luxury of planning how they would approach the new paradigm or strategizing about how they might succeed as remote operators. When the pandemic hit in March 2020, many employees had to self-manage their way onto their own two feet as they learned to function from their home offices.
As if that wasn’t challenging enough, many employees had more than their own work to balance. In addition to learning to be remote operators, they were helping their children learn to be remote students. That’s a lot to manage emotionally, physically, and logistically.
Now, the waters of chaos are starting to recede. Life is beginning to feel normal again. Kids are preparing to return to their classrooms in the fall. This is an interesting time for self-reflection as many professionals return to the office for at least part of their week.
If you’re getting ready to shift to a hybrid model, it may feel daunting to prepare for yet another major shift. But it’s important to take stock of what you learned while powering your company and your family through the pandemic. You are not the same professional you were when you packed up your office in 2020.
You’re a survivor with strong new muscles that you honed and toned during the pandemic. Self-management skills are probably familiar to you. They helped you succeed as a remote professional, as they will when you’re working in a hybrid context.
Consider these five self-management skills that will help you succeed in a hybrid arrangement.
Your self-management savvy.
Self-management skills are those abilities that help us regulate and control our actions, feelings, and thoughts. Cultivating these skills gives us more control over goal-setting efforts, which may lead to more exciting opportunities and more targeted success in the workplace.
Self-management skills help us to weigh what is important, identify priorities, and make a plan to target those. It means taking responsibility for submitting quality deliverables and being reachable to answer questions and share information about those.
Savvy self-management is also about understanding our role and how that fits into the big picture at our workplace. Being a good self-manager is “must-have” for those who hope to pursue a management role. It’s also tremendously helpful for those aiming to succeed in a hybrid arrangement.
“Think of yourself as an employment partner in the pursuit of compatible business and career goals.” Advises Nance Schick, employment attorney, mediator, coach, and longtime remote and hybrid professional. “The pandemic probably made you think critically about how quickly life can change and what you want to be, do, and have. You've likely already considered why you're doing your current job, and you've decided to continue. You're providing your employer something it needs, and it is providing you something you need. Learn your employer's most important goals and how you fit in. Look for new ways to ensure both of you continuously benefit from your relationship.”
When the pandemic hit, and we left our public spaces for our homes, it altered our notion of time. In some ways, this was good. But it was new which made it challenging. Many of us found ourselves working around the availability of office space, devices, and tools that we shared with family members. We became very connected to our households and acutely aware of who needed what and when. Getting work done became less dependent on the clock and more tethered to the availability of resources. We learned more about our own productivity: “I can accomplish more if I get up early or go to bed late and have a block of uninterrupted time to concentrate.”
What did this teach us? We learned the essence of time management. Time doesn’t matter-output matters. Being reliable matters. Showing up for our colleagues, our customers, and our families is what matters.
When you’re working in a hybrid arrangement, time management means having an acute sense of what needs to be done in the home office and what needs to be done in the workplace. Plenty has been written about whether creativity and spontaneity can flourish among professionals on Zoom or whether they need time face-to-face to do some work.
You are testing this out in a hands-on way. Note what works. If there are some coworkers who talk your ear off when you see them in person, but they give you concise emails with all the info you need when you message them from your remote office, plan fun lunches with them but not face-to-face meetings. If there’s a colleague who is great to brainstorm with, but who doesn’t participate well in remote meetings, note that. Then meet with that person when you’re in the office.
Your office days feed your remote work days and vice versa. So always be thinking of how you can best use your time. “Use some sort of daily plan and stick to it whenever possible. I use an electronic calendar that contains everything I need to do each day, including sleep, exercise, breaks, and personal calls. I also take time every Saturday to take a look at the week ahead and what I need to be successful in it. Each morning, I review both and list the 10 most important things for me to do, followed by a list of 10 things I am grateful for. The gratitude list reminds me that although I have a busy day ahead, it's because I have and am continuing to create a life to be thankful for.” Schick shares.
Guard your chill.
After the year we’ve had, it’s worth considering the question: “what’s the benefit of getting upset at work?” It hurts. It clouds our vision. It slows our operations. Stress management is a key self-management skill. If you can find a way to balance your physical and emotional workload, you win.
Do what it takes to manage the stress of work. Maybe that means working with a coach or therapist. Maybe it means taking regular time for exercise or meditation. Figure out what being healthy looks like for you and work it into your life. It’s not an indulgence, it’s an edge. It’s how you see clearly, generate great deliverables, and build productive, satisfying relationships with co-workers and clients.
Think about it as you prepare for hybrid work. This schedule has some perks-it’s flexible and it gives you an opportunity to build your needs into your schedule. Embrace the opportunity, and make your mental health and your stress management a priority. It stands to make you happier and more productive at work.
Communicate like a boss.
When there’s a remote dimension to your work, communication becomes essential to sustaining that work. There’s no room for ambiguity. But miscommunications are common. It’s easy to stumble into them, especially when we’re busy. It’s messy and time-consuming to clean up after miscommunications. The best strategy is to be clear, purposeful, and positive from the start.
“Most digital miscommunication happens because we don’t have access to the non-verbal cues, including tone of voice, body language, and facial expressions, that give us valuable emotional context when we’re discussing in person.” Write Liz Fosslien and Molly West Duffy in the Harvard Business Review. Digital communication enables hybrid work, so find a way to strategize around this common pitfall.
Also, if you have access to professional development resources, putting those towards refining your communication skills is a good plan as you get acclimated towards being a hybrid professional. Keep refining your skills to keep your verbal and written communications free of pesky mistakes that will lead to misinterpretations of your messaging.
Create a plan for how you want to communicate with your team. “Reach out daily when working from home. You might not be required to check in with your boss each day, but it will still benefit you to maintain some sort of connection to your co-workers, clients, or the outside world.” Schick advises. “It will help you remember you're not alone when you need help with a project or someone who understands your challenges.”
Keep on truckin.
You’ve weathered a lot. You’ve balanced a lot. You’ve worked hard and been flexible. Take the breaks you need to stay positive, creative, and committed to making this new mod of operation work. Hybrid work is exciting, but it takes a certain amount of optimism and resilience to go right from staffing a pandemic to making a whole new workplace paradigm successful.
You’ve had a crash course in resilience over the past seventeen months. Being resilient is a self-management skill that helped you get through a difficult time, and it will help you succeed as a hybrid employee. This arrangement is new for many employers and employees alike. It stands to serve both well. It will take some time to finesse it and make it your own.
Use your self-management skills to make this hybrid professional arrangement truly your own. You deserve a job and a professional arrangement that deeply suits you. Good luck as you go hybrid!
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