In the last two years, remote work has blurred the boundaries between our work and home lives. As the light at the end of the pandemic’s dark tunnel starts to shine, a new normal is shaping up —a hybrid workplace offering flexibility for employees, combining office and remote work. Research tracking workplace trends shows that that’s exactly what employees want. Post-pandemic, over 50% of workers would prefer a flexible hybrid workplace and almost 40% of corporate executives expect remote employees to stay remote more than two days a week.
Managers need to step up
Remote work has yielded high overall productivity during the pandemic, but it has come at the cost of overworked employees (almost half of workers feel burnt out), siloed teams, shrinking networks, and digital exhaustion.
In a new hybrid world, managers now have the responsibility to pave the way forward. They need to help employees remain productive, maintain their wellbeing and satisfaction in-office and at home while optimizing each setting for its own benefits and learning from the challenges remote work has posed. This means effective decision-making, but also in-depth communication with employees, and being open to pivoting strategies accordingly.
Research has shown that effective managers account for 70% of employee engagement, but the pandemic has left a wide disconnect between employer and employee, one that is directly linked to employee satisfaction and performance. Now, with almost half of employees looking to make a career change (dubbed “The Great Resignation”), the ways in which leaders shape the future hybrid workforce will redefine productivity, engagement, and ultimately, success.
Here’s how managers can support employees, provide guidance to increasing productivity, and help create a better work experience for their people, wherever they may be.
Tips to increase productivity in the office and at home
1. Help employees reduce multitasking
Long hours at home have given us time, but the most valuable resource employees can provide is something else—attention.
Juggling many things at once actually gets less done overall, as the mind jumps from task to task and needs time to re-orient. It takes an average of 15 minutes to settle back into a task after a distraction, dropping efficiency by as much as 40%.
To help your employees stay on track, recommend they stick to one task at a time and minimize communication with colleagues when working on a big task. Remote work during the pandemic has meant a barrage of ad-hoc calls and chats at virtually all times of day, so it’s essential to keep the storm of communication at bay in order to remain focused.
2. Keep meetings purposeful, make sure everyone invited is relevant
Social interaction from meetings can be inviting for those working at home and in the office, but unnecessary meetings take time away from key tasks and lengthen already long days. In fact, managers surveyed in the US have said that over 70% of their meetings are unproductive or inefficient.
To keep meetings efficient and productive, be clear about a meeting’s purpose from the get-go: are we here to discuss, share info, or decide? If it’s the latter, assign specific roles to the meeting participants to avoid toe-stepping—decision-makers, advisors/input givers, recommenders who explore alternatives, and execution partners who will handle implementation.
Finally, make sure everyone invited needs to be there. Unnecessary meetings can diminish the productivity of individual work. Under a hybrid model, this is especially true for remote workers, who already spend much of their day in meetings.
3. Recommend setting aside specific time for emails
The average professional spends almost a third of their day on emails. Not all that is productive. Over-checking email wastes 21 minutes per day, and crowded inboxes mean redundant reading and confusion over which emails require action.
Experts recommend scheduling 5 to 8 minutes every hour to check emails. One way to increase email productivity is to categorize emails after the first read and send them into one of two key folders: emails that require action, and emails that may require a re-read later. This will save time during initial browsing and in search, and reduce the time spent checking email. This way, the need to re-orient attention after scratching the itch to open the inbox can be avoided altogether.
4. Production days versus administration days
Different types of work require different types of schedules. Researchers have found that small administrative tasks can ruin your flow when you need a few hours at a time to get something done.
Consider recommending employees divide their week into “maker” days and “manager” days. Maker days will have long blocks of time reserved for focusing on one particular task, while administrative days will be time-slotted for more reactive, short-burst tasks. The result: fewer distractions while working on big projects, and more mindfulness around those projects. In a hybrid workplace, it may also determine what days employees are in the office and at home, depending on their productivity in each setting.
5. Make the case for keeping work environments organized
The same goes whether employees are back at the office or their home desk—physical disorganization drains our cognitive energy, hindering productivity. And yes, computer desktops count.
A disorganized workspace can also affect general mental health and emotions, focus, and even sleep. Considering the toll the pandemic has taken on employee burnout, this is a small change that can lead to major benefits.
6. Encourage utilizing the times of day that are most productive
In a hybrid workplace, many redesign their schedules at home and in the office. Regardless of the setting, it’s unrealistic to expect employees to be at their best every hour.
Humans have an internal clock (circadian rhythm) that dictates when our mind is at its optimal performance. We tend to peak a few hours into the day nearing lunch, die down in the afternoon, hitting a low at around 3, then increase and peak again at 6, before declining for the rest of the evening.
To maximize employee performance at home and in the office, encourage your team to schedule less important tasks when their alertness is low, and divide their workloads individually so that everyone is working whenever they can do their best work.
These tips will aid overall individual and company productivity while fostering wellbeing for your employees. But the most important tip? Listen.
Research in the US found that managers are missing key opportunities to listen to their employees, and the quality of their decisions, engagement, and relationships with employees are suffering because of it.
Managers have the opportunity to pave the way forward in a hybrid workplace, but it’s their employees who will provide the most valuable input, as we all learn and navigate this new world of work together.
Ready to support your people and increase their productivity every single day? Discover Montara’s real-time productivity recommendations and personalized insights.