Building Your Hybrid Workplace Toolkit, Day 3: Staying Focused

Productivity was stable during the pandemic in part because some people found it easier to focus at home. Here’s how to make sure that focus travels with you anywhere you set up shop.

This is Day 3 of our five-day hybrid workplace toolkit series. Day 1 was about building a travel kit, and Day 2 was about reviewing the timing for your commute. Stay tuned for two additional exercises.

A prevailing theme of the remote work experiment during the pandemic was that people were actually just as, if not more, productive at home than they were in the office. Many attributed this to the fact that while home has plenty of distractions (e.g., childcare, household chores, etc.), the distractions of office life were suddenly gone and workers could focus more easily.

If you’ve transitioned to hybrid work, you’ll need to reacclimate yourself to getting in the zone amid the distractions of a shared workspace. And once you get used to office life again, you may have to double down on your efforts to eliminate at-home distractions. But there are tools and techniques to stay focused, no matter your environment.

Today’s tip: Be proactive about staying focused in a hybrid environment.

How to Stay Focused in a Hybrid Workplace

Depending on your remote work situation, you may now be used to relative silence or little disturbance when working—or, at least, disturbances you have some control over. If you’re disturbed by background noise when you return to a shared workspace, bring noise-canceling headphones with you. There are digital tools that can also help, such as Microsoft’s Focus assist feature (available on Windows 10 or later), which aims to minimize visual distractions by turning off animations and background images, making your taskbar less chaotic, and simplifying your start menu.

For macOS, there is Monterey’s Focus mode, which is similar to the iPhone’s Do Not Disturb feature. Focus mode lets you create a “Focus profile” of customized settings and preferences designed to keep distractions at bay in a way that suits your needs.

Think about digital distractions on other devices too. Maybe the smartphone dings, buzzes, and beeps you put up with at home are now intolerable amid all the other office clatter. If so, consider muting notifications on your phone.

Conversely, after a taste of office life and the accountability that comes with in-person work, you may find yourself more distracted by at-home temptations than before (TV, video games, drifting away from the computer to do a load of laundry). If this is the case, you can use time-management techniques designed to keep you locked in even as other things around you try to peel you away from your desk. One popular technique is the Pomodoro Method, where you work for 25 minutes and then rest for five minutes. Once you’ve gone through four of these “pomodoros,” you get a longer rest of 15 to 30 minutes.

Plus, to stay sharp in both environments, consider dressing sharp, even on your remote work days. Why? Dressing professionally is about more than appearance; it changes how we think, behave, and interact, according to the concept of enclothed cognition. Dressing professionally in the office and at home can establish consistency between the two environments, helping you stay on top of your game wherever you are.

Why You Should Find Ways to Focus in a Hybrid Environment

If you’re just transitioning to hybrid work, it means you’ve gotten very used to one working environment over the past two years. When this changes, new distractions will come your way, and you’ll need to prepare them.

Showing that you can be productive in both environments can help demonstrate to your organization’s leaders that people’s level of work can stay consistent—ultimately boosting the case for continued workplace flexibility.

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Michael Hickey

By Michael Hickey

Michael Hickey is a contributor to Associations Now. MORE

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