Hybrid working should, on paper, provide us with the best of both worlds. It encapsulates both flexibility and work-life balance; allowing employees to work in a way which suits them, while still making space for in-person connection with colleagues in the office. Yet, so few of us know how to truly maximise this opportunity. Instead of getting the best of both worlds, we end up getting the worst of both systems. But it doesn’t have to be this way… Here’s how to make hybrid office work smarter.
There’s something of a disconnect between how busy we feel, and how much work we actually achieve. On the one hand, we have increasing reports of burnout in the workplace – and on the other, research suggesting the average worker is productive for less than three hours a day. So, what gives? The truth is that it’s not that people aren’t putting in effort, but that they’re concentrating it in the wrong places.
This is especially true in the case of hybrid work. Managers are paranoid that employees are bunking off while working remotely, and so they schedule endless Teams calls to check in and micromanage (the frequency of meetings has gone up since the start of the pandemic). And things aren’t much better in the office, either, with pressure to make the most of in-person contact meaning meetings continue to proliferate, as do desk-side interruptions.
Learning to prioritise is the only way to combat this. Remote work gives employees the perfect time to focus on productive output without interruption while meetings in-person best facilitate collaboration. Still, this goes beyond just boundaries and more trust from managers, (though certainly these things help), in order to truly prioritise you need strategy, and for strategy you also need creativity – which brings us onto the next point.
Revitalise with creativity
Creativity is important for smart hybrid work for a number of reasons. A lack of purpose at work has been directly correlated with a lack of creativity, with 64% of workers saying they would find their job more enjoyable if they had time to be creative. Given that creativity is also linked with countless positive traits such as productivity, reduced stress, and overall satisfaction at work, it has a lot to offer in a work context.
So, how does this fit into the picture of hybrid work? We know that remote work is associated with a decline in creativity. While in-person brainstorming is often susceptible to the traps of groupthink. When hybrid work is approached without creativity, the outcome – more often than not – is busy fool syndrome. A phenomenon where workers allow a general sense of busyness to take precedence over strategic work.
Revitalising creativity starts with purposeful mind wandering. To be specific, making time for daydreaming. Numerous studies have proven beyond dispute that daydreaming is integral to the creative process – facilitating problem solving, heightened cognition, and overall innovation. The best way to approach this is to carve out specific time for focussed daydreaming, a state which can be induced through everything from washing up to walking to doodling. With this creative boost, workers will not only be filled with more creative ideas, they will also have more clarity when it comes to strategic work overall.
Timely and effective collaboration is at the heart of all good hybrid work. Most people would agree that team work flows better in-person – without the hindrance of poor connection and digital delays – but either way, following rules for proper productive brainstorming sessions will improve hybrid work whether remote or in-person.
When you boil it down, almost all meetings are essentially brainstorming sessions – whether they’re explicitly about ideas, or ostensibly more operational. Creativity is the foundation of all good projects, and brainstorming sessions are what allow us to turn ideas into action through collaboration and discussion.
To make these sessions productive, workers should practise focussed daydreaming prior to the meeting and come armed with the ideas they uncover (written down prior to the meeting). The session can then be started with everyone going round and sharing their individual thoughts as this helps to eliminate groupthink and gives everyone, even introverts, a voice.
Other rules for brilliant brainstorming (whether remote or in-person) include: Going for a large quantity of ideas in order to give you more to work with when whittling them down later on; withholding judgement in the early stages of ideation and capturing all ideas from everyone in the group, no matter how silly; learning to fuse the crazy ideas with the sensible ones in order to unlock truly brilliant, and original creativity.
Putting it all together
Learning to prioritise our tasks, get creative, and make the most of brainstorming sessions is all a part of maximising hybrid work. When we learn to work on the right things and communicate well, hybrid work starts to feel more like a blessing than a curse. Crucially, creativity is the connective tissue which blends strategy and collaboration to pave the way forward for flexible working in a post-covid world.