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Life Kit: How To Make Hybrid Work Successful

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

For a lot of workers, it's been a year of questions about the future. And that's also true of office workers, who may not be on the front lines but have still had to adjust to new realities. If you're someone who's been working from home, you might now be asking, can I continue to do so? Can I split my time between home and office permanently? NPR's Life Kit has been thinking about the shift to a hybrid work schedule and has some tips on how to make it work.

Here's NPR's Andrea Hsu.

ANDREA HSU, BYLINE: First thing to know about hybrid work - not everyone is going to be able to do it. Some bosses have embraced the idea. Others have already asked people to be back at their desks full time. Tsedal Neeley is a professor at Harvard Business School and author of the book "Remote Work Revolution: Succeeding From Anywhere." Fortunately, Neeley says, there has never been a better time to speak up about what you need to be happy and productive at work.

TSEDAL NEELEY: I think people have proven, and even - the words that I use nowadays is, they've earned the right to ask for flexibility.

HSU: So our first tip is about how to ask for flexibility. Be prepared to make your case and expect a negotiation. Lorrissa Horton is a vice president at the tech company Cisco. She says it's always good to start with an open conversation.

LORRISSA HORTON: My recommendation is to start with all of the things that you are excited about with your job, with your company, and that you appreciate, because I think it's important that they know you're coming from a place of, I want to find a compromise that works. And then from there, just explaining what your concerns and needs are for you to continue moving forward.

HSU: OK. Assuming you've gotten some kind of go ahead, let's move on to our second tip. Connect with your colleagues early and often, and be intentional about it. We all miss the spontaneous moments that just happen in the office - the off-the-cuff gut checks, the quick chats in the lunch line. Well, Lorrissa Horton says you can bring those moments back in a hybrid work setting. Many messaging apps have a feature that allows you to update your status - you know, whether you're online and available or away. Horton uses that whenever she needs a quick vent session or a brainstorm.

HORTON: I can find someone who's free and say, do you have five minutes? That's super-helpful And that's the stuff that people try to replace with scheduled meetings, but then we just got caught in, like, 12 hours of scheduled meetings. And really, you needed five minutes.

HSU: Frequent check-ins with your boss are also important when you're not face to face every day. Tsedal Neeley says don't wait for your six-month review.

NEELEY: People have to have these active conversations. The onus is both on managers and employees to make sure that they happen.

HSU: Third tip now. If you're splitting your time between home and office, make sure your workspace works for you in both places. The last thing you want is to be your own tech support every day. Of course, replicating your office setup at home can cost money, especially if you're someone who has, say, a standing desk. Horton says it's worth finding out if your company has a budget for such items. She says many companies may be saving money by not having everyone in the office all the time.

HORTON: So it's really taking that savings and reinvesting it into a workplace that is designed for hybrid workers, that is designed for people who are going to be coming in and out.

HSU: Now a last tip from professor Neeley - build trust with your colleagues. And that starts with being reliable.

NEELEY: Do as you say. You show up when you need to, virtual or not, on time. Follow up.

HSU: But also, get to know your colleagues. Let them get to know you. All those Zoom calls from our homes, they gave us a window into each other's lives. And that led to greater empathy. It's been a silver lining of the pandemic and something worth hanging on to. Andrea Hsu, NPR News.

MARTIN: For more tips, check out Life Kit at npr.org/lifekit.

(SOUNDBITE OF SOLANGE SONG, "DANCING IN THE DARK") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.