As I re-start my commute, the feelings are mixed. Commute gives me back my me-time but it also takes away time. Being in the office adds back to the work relationships. Being home adds to my productivity. Being out of the house takes me away from being there for the children. But it also means I am there when I am with them. Every coin has 2 sides. Commuting is probably no different. And as work moves to hybrid, I want to make the best of both sides.
A new commute
To add to the balance, I am now going for a different type of commute until the Summer – I go by boat, which takes me longer but is 100x nicer. Moreover, it applies a limit on the start and finish of my day. I take the first boat out at 7.25 eastbound. I take the last boat back at 18.10 eastbound. Whilst it stresses me a bit more while in the office, it also focuses the mind. And yes, if needed I can always take the Tube in either end, but I have great motivation not to. I am still learning how to be surrounded by too many people.
The other positive about the boat is that it is a single commute. I go from my beginning port to my end one in one go, no inter-change. The productivity gains of this are extraordinary. In September I got to inbox zero at the charity for the first time in years. I write this article. Or I go through audiobooks and podcasts. I even call a friend.
As an added bonus, I have a 20 mins walk each way. Win-Win-Win
A hybrid way of working
The other part of commuting is that now hybrid times begin. As someone who has no plans of returning to the office full-time, I am testing new waters. I want to make the best of the time at home and the best of the time in the office. Whilst much may not depend on me but rather on the willingness of those that want or must be permanently in the office, I am doing my share to experiment with remote working as a choice rather than as a need or legal imposition.
When designing flexible work arrangements, focus on individual human concerns, not just institutional ones.Lynda Gratton
The schedule is key
I am trying to redesign my weekly schedule to allow for collaboration time in the office and for a focused time at home. I also try not to be 2 consecutive days in the office. It is not uncommon that, after a day full of meetings, I come out with a long list of things to do. So I want to be able to work through them the next day. Have my focus time, go through materials, think through and process. Moreover, because it is not unusual to jump from meeting to meeting, my inbox gets full and prior deliverables go on stand-by.
My work requires a mix of collaboration and deep thinking, and one can’t exist without the other. Planning is key. And recognising the importance of both as well. I haven’t had as much ability to focus on a piece of work as when I started working from home. In fact, even prior to the pandemic I would sometimes choose to work from home so I could get things done. So now, that is just baked into my schedule.
Be there to work together
Collaboration and training of team members are the 2 hardest things to do remotely. The latter more importantly. So I seek to be in the office when other team members are. But remember not to be there and spend the day on calls. There is no point. So I am ensuring there are open blocks in my schedule where we can work together on the latest analysis, or just openly discuss what we are working on. Whilst it may bring productivity overall down, it has the power of aligning learning and clarifying goals.
I am more than anything focused on providing an easy route for team members to reach out. Especially as I have taken increased responsibilities in the last 7 months, the distance with the teams has increased, and I am keen to keep the way for communication open.
The other side of coming into the office is to have key meetings in person. Whilst I am not a defender that certain meetings can only be done in person, I believe certain chatter will only happen in the office, or rather, in person. So if I am in, I am slowly fighting my anti-social behaviour and walking up to desks, or staying behind in a meeting to ensure I have that extra chat. It’s tempting not to, especially in a more limited timeframe. We also tend to easily fill up the schedule with back to back meetings and no time for the casual meet-up. That casual time needs to be allowed in.
However, let’s remember one thing. While many people are still home, I move catch ups around to make sure I meet those in the office in person and I speak to those at home from my home. I want to ensure no one feels left out by choosing to stay home at the moment, or in the future.
Routine vs Flexibility
This last point may be more ‘me specific’. I am a person that likes routines (as you can probably tell). That is mostly a good thing. Routine allows me to plan and be efficient with my time. It also allows for actions to be more automated. What it creates is more rigidity. That is an area I am acutely aware of, so I apply a flexibility overlay.
Now, more than ever, I see this as a key part of hybrid working. By being at home, there are a lot of perception biases to be fought through. Not being available is one of them. So if a big meeting shows up and suddenly more hands-on, in-office work is required, change is the right approach. It will not only give flexibility as a key principle but also ensure people don’t think you are hiding anything (or doing something else), just because you are home.
And needless to say that when we work from home, we are likely more flexible with our timings anyway. That is when a routine to have starts and finishes in the day can come in handy.
A step forward
I believe in hybrid working as a step forward. By now, I am neither a believer in full time remote or full-time in-office. I like to think that after all the enlightenment period we have just been through, we will know better and find solutions for a new way of working, adapted to teams, individuals, and today’s day and age. This is phase I for me, and I am taking this step forward will all my might. Phase Ii post-summer will be gigantic, so I have to get it ‘right’. Or close to it.