If your company hasn’t come up with a solution yet for hybrid working conditions, you should probably get on that soon. Recent research from Accenture found that 83% of workers prefer a hybrid office setup, and the Great Resignation has shown us that workers are willing to roll the dice in order to get what they want.
You’ve decided to make your hybrid office a permanent protocol. Now, how should you adjust your online setup? Are you using Slack too much or not enough? Should you replace Miro with MindMeister, or vice versa? So many tools, so little time.
I’m a lowly consultant who lives in a cave. But I’ve also been doing this remote thing for years; I was on Zoom when it was two cans and a string, y’all. Rather than try to optimize your virtual office with dozens of software widgets that are overkill, my recommendation is to focus instead on knowing the basics like the back of your hand.
It’s time to put a ring on some of those productivity SaaS expenses and fully commit. Here are a few foundational processes to streamline for the coming hybrid year.
Embrace virtual project management
Any company moving forward with a hybrid office setup needs a digital “Mission Control” for project management. Clearly, Silicon Valley agrees; Airtable‘s most recent round of funding cements decacorn status with a whopping $11.6B valuation. Asana, Monday.com, Trello, and Notion have also surged in the remote-work world.
Consider a tool that will be easy for your team to learn and manage. Conditional deadlines and the ability to tag fellow users along the way will be key. If your company brings in contractors or consultants from time to time (Like me!), structure projects and channels accordingly so you don’t find yourself in permissions purgatory down the line.
Already have a tool at your company? Go deeper with integrations in 2022. Zapier comes to the rescue here; the SaaS is well-known as “digital glue” and can connect apps that don’t play nicely in the sandbox together otherwise. See how you might be able to create automations related to the creation of new tasks or next steps when you complete existing ones. Example: When a new client of mine completes their intake form in Google Forms, Zapier creates a task in our Asana dashboard with the client’s address information so we can send them flowers. Don’t be afraid to get creative here.
. . . Then actually adopt the project management tool
Any of these tools are great—if you can get your team to use ’em, that is. Process adoption is the linchpin of any project management software, and your team needs a moment to acclimate and be encouraged about their behavior change. Don’t be that executive who tells everyone else to keep project statuses current and then never uses it yourself.
The way we keep ourselves organized digitally is often deeply ingrained. Contrary to popular belief, it actually takes far longer than 21 days to form new habits (that statistic is attributed to the 1960 book Psycho-Cybernetics and refers to plastic surgery acclimation). Stay the course, and your team will thank you. Your operations team will also secretly love it when you lead by example and are diligent with project updates.
Adopt an appointment-scheduling tool
If it’s still taking you 15 back-and-forth emails to set a meeting time in 2022, it’s time to embrace an appointment-booking tool and integrate it with your calendar.
Calendly became wildly popular during quarantine and is my battle axe of choice; Acuity and ScheduleOnce are also excellent alternatives. All of these tools will populate appointment-time options in your respective time zone to cut down on thinking and confusion. Calendly’s recent Meeting Polls feature helps to cut down on back-and-forth for deciding on meeting times, which is the bane of every remote employee’s existence.
. . . But remember to block off whitespace
When you have an appointment-booking link floating around at all times, it’s important to keep your calendar hygiene tight. This includes blocking time off each week to prioritize deep, focused work. You need it, and your employees need it too.
Whitespace is great for you, but without a proper setup, it may not be great for your team. Set up team members as to when you’ll be unavailable and why, and you’ll have an easier time minimizing interruptions, while also avoiding bottleneck status.
Become the impresario of your inbox
According to a survey released earlier this year from Wakefield Research, 38% of office workers say email fatigue is pushing them toward quitting their jobs. Hybrid office setups often result in more written correspondence over the course of a day; familiarize yourself with all the bells and whistles of your email provider to make things more manageable. I’m a G Suite user, here are three of my favorites:
- Templates—Formally known as Canned Responses, these are pre-written emails that you can populate into your email draft with two quick clicks. I use ’em for pitches. Go to Settings in your inbox, then navigate to the Advanced tab to enable them.
- Keyboard shortcuts—While you’re visiting the Advanced tab, also toggle on keyboard shortcuts. You’ll need to toggle them on in the General tab as well. Shift-3 deletes an email, the letter V files an email, and the letters J and K let you toggle to the previous or next email.
- Auto-advance—This one becomes really valuable once you’ve enabled shortcuts. Click on the email at the top of your inbox, then process your messages one by one. Instead of returning to the inbox, you’ll be taken to the next email, allowing you to blitz through new messages.
Also—separate email tabs are so five years ago. Turn off all other tabs except your primary tab; having a single input will sharpen your focus.
Hybrid office life doesn’t have to be clumsy. Take a page or two from how remote companies and online entrepreneurs work, and you’ll have an easier time thriving in the virtual-work landscape.
Nick Wolny is a former classically trained musician and a current online-marketing strategist for small business owners, experts, and entrepreneurs.