Instead of going fully remote, many companies are striking a balance by having employees in the office two to three days a week and at home the remainder. A study by PwC found that these hybrid arrangements are likely to become the norm. While you may have gotten accustomed to working fully remote, and you probably remember what it was like to work in the office full-time, being hybrid requires creating a new set of rules and boundaries, says Tanya Dalton, author of The Joy of Missing Out and the upcoming book On Purpose: The Busy Woman’s Guide to an Extraordinary Life of Meaning and Success.
“Most people are finding the hybrid model to be twice as stressful because it continues to blur the lines between work and home,” she says. “We can end up doing more and working more hours for the company than we previously did when we went into the office every day.”
Start by establishing expectations with yourself. Dalton says the commute used to serve as a well-defined transition. Getting into the car or taking the train to work was a ritual that signified that you were going into work mode. And commuting home signified closing the door to the workday and shifting focus to your family. With a hybrid arrangement, you lose the separation a few days a week.
“You may have a Zoom call, throw in some laundry, then take another Zoom call, then take the dog for a walk,” says Dalton. “What happens is you lose track of how you’re spending your time and the intentionality around it.”
The challenge when you are working from home is to create boundaries for yourself by setting a schedule. “As workers, we rely on our manager or employer to set those boundaries for us,” says Dalton. “Amazingly, we forget that we have the ability to set them for ourselves, and we’ve forgotten we need to do that. It’s a matter of choosing and making an intention.”
If you have control over your working hours at home, Dalton says they don’t have to be same every week, and they don’t have to mirror those you keep in the office. Unless you’re obligated to attend remote meetings, your employer will likely allow you to work independently. If you haven’t had a conversation with your manager to confirm expectations, do that before starting your hybrid arrangement.
“Too often, we think we can’t create our own hours because we haven’t talked about it,” says Dalton. “Communication and conversation are often missing in the workplace. We often project what we think our employer expects without checking.”
For example, you could actively choose to work from 9 a.m. to noon, then take a two-hour break; then work from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. and take another two-hour break. Whatever you choose, understand that your hours will likely be fluid.
“Store hours don’t work,” says Dalton. “And rigid productivity hacks don’t work. They often shatter and break the first time there is a challenge. Being flexible makes you stronger. Map out whatever works for you. At its heart, productivity is making choices with intention.”
Have Daily Check-ins
Reflection on your boundaries is an important part of the process. Dalton recommends stopping and assessing the day with a five-minute check-in. “Ask yourself, ‘Did I put too much on my plate? How stressed do I feel? How am I feeling about what I accomplished?'” she says.
Rank your answers on a scale from 1 to 10. If you’re consistently giving yourself a 7 or below, Dalton says you need to make a change.
“Aim for more days at an 8, 9, or 10,” she says. “Happiness is at the heart of why we do what we do. Any goal or dream is an aspiration to be happier. By stopping to check in how you’re feeling happiness-wise, you can make micro adjustments that reduce stress.”
If you consistently feel like you’re doing too much, plan to sit down on Sunday or Monday and reflect on the week. How can you change or create new boundaries for the week ahead? Is the amount of days you work at the office enough? Too many? Ask yourself the same questions about the amount of time you spend working from home.
“Boundaries are not set it and forget it,” says Dalton. “It’s good to check in and figure out what will work that week. Reflection can make an amazing difference.”
Setting boundaries is a choice, says Dalton. “Be an active participant instead of sleepwalking through life,” she says. “You’ll be happier, and the people around you will be happier, when your needs are met.”