So, you’ve finally adjusted to working remotely. Your home office is adorned with leafy plants and your desk is perfectly positioned to catch the natural light. You even know all about the ergonomics of your swivel chair.
Indeed, the recent phenomenon of remote work has offered numerous lifestyle benefits to employees, including fewer commute hours and more opportunities to run personal errands. However, now that the COVID-19 pandemic is easing and employers are making return-to-work plans, some workers may be concerned about shifting their routines once more.
Fear not! Depending on your situation, you might get the best of both worlds: enjoying the social benefits of returning to the office while retaining the perks that come with working remotely. Luckily, the ease with which many companies have adopted a work-from-home policy has led to a rise in the popularity of flexible working.
What is flexible working?
Flexible working is a term used to describe employment situations with greater freedom than the typical 9 to 5. Employees have more choice in when, where, and how they work, meaning their schedules can change from week to week or even day to day. Some options include:
- Flextime: You choose what hours to work within the week, including start and finish time
- Working remotely: You work full-time from your home office
- Hybrid office: You split your time between remote work and the company office
Though each employee should consider which approach works best for them, it appears that the hybrid model will be the favored choice for many office workers. Management consulting firm McKinsey & Company noted that “hybrid models of remote work are most likely to persist in the wake of the pandemic,” with Kate Lister of Global Workplace Analytics estimating that by 2025, 70% of employees will be working remotely at least five days a month.
How to plan a flexible work schedule
You might think that a loose work structure seems messy. Surely it would be easier to either work from home or the office, rather than a mix of the two? This wariness is valid, especially after such a tumultuous work year, but it may just be that you haven’t yet experienced the benefits of a hybrid schedule.
The key to dispelling the uncertainty around flexible working is planning your week effectively. When you have a plan in place, you are more likely to feel organized and even excited to add some variety to your timetable. Here are some tips to help you prepare for your new work schedule:
1. Talk to your boss
You and your employer might have conflicting ideas about how many days you should be in the office. Professional services firm PwC recently surveyed 1,200 office workers and 133 executives and found that the two groups weren’t exactly in agreement on flexible working. 55% of employees said they would like to work remotely at least three days a week, while 68% of employers said they would prefer teams to be in the office for the same amount of time. Be sure to discuss the options with your supervisor to make sure you’re both on the same page. Once you have the green light, you can make a personal plan.
2. Create a weekly schedule
In a flexible environment, schedules are liable to change. For example, you might be able to work from home most Mondays, but are required to come into the office on the first Monday of the month for a team meeting. Lifehack.org recommends creating a schedule every Sunday evening for the week ahead. Preparing a timetable in advance will ensure you start the week off on the right foot. This way, you won’t wake up in a panic on Monday morning after realizing you have to factor in an office commute.
3. Separate your tasks
At the start of every week, split your to-do list into home tasks and office tasks. This will help you make the most of the advantages offered by both work environments. If you need to plan a group project with your team, it may be best to schedule this activity for an in-office day. Meanwhile, a solo creative project that requires silence and concentration would be better for a day when you’re working remotely.
4. Use a shared calendar
This is one of the best ways to ensure your hybrid work schedule runs smoothly alongside your organization’s activities. Add your remote workdays to your calendar so your team can easily see when you are available for in-office meetings and events. The key benefit here is that any changes will be made automatically across the entire team. There are plenty of online shared calendars to choose from, including Google, Outlook, and Wrike.
5. Add flexibility
When creating your weekly plan, leave some wiggle room for last-minute changes. Though the vaccination rollout continues to gain pace, the COVID-19 pandemic is still a concern, which is why Entrepreneur.com advises employees to anticipate new restrictions. There may be a late-stage outbreak in your locality or a colleague may unexpectedly test positive for COVID-19, so you must be able to pivot quickly if you can’t make it to the office on a certain day.
6. Use online collaboration software
To move seamlessly between the office and remote work, you need versatile online collaboration software. The idea here is that you should have equal access to files and other essential work tools in both places of work. A project management software solution such as Wrike can help you collaborate effectively from wherever you are, with features such as live editing and messaging app integrations.
By following these simple tips, you should have no problem returning to the office while still keeping one foot in the world of remote work.