How to be happy with hybrid

Paul Crabtree Work Practices & Wellbeing

Preparing for hybrid working

Working from home and working from the office present very different challenges. The social side, the collaborations, the banter, the informal glances and serendipity all are tough to accomplish when we work remotely.

But after a year of lockdown, I’ve noticed several behaviours we’ve adopted that will help all of us achieve balance in life, and craft great work.

You are not chained to your desk

When we work from home, our domestic life is quite literally next door. It’s easy to feel guilty and that it’s expected for you to always be at your desk and be constantly available. The boundaries blur when it comes to carving out time for lunch, those coffee shops runs and what time your day actually ends.

Without realising it, you feel chained to the desk; living at work, rather than working from home. And yet when we were office-based, you wouldn’t think twice about chatting at the kettle, getting together in a meeting room, sitting on a sofa or having those informal chats in passing. This is normal. Sitting at your desk for hours is not normal.

No one should feel guilty about taking breaks. When working from home, popping out into the garden or outside or for a walk around the block is equally as important as the work you do at your desk. Bake something into your routine and do it. Everyday.

Constant notifications prevent deep thought

Beep, chimes, vibrations and more compete for our attention constantly; Skype, email, WhatsApp, phone calls, diary alerts and more are all constant distractions, breaking our concentration. Email or Skype previews are the devil’s work, visually interrupting so that our attention is constantly drawn away from the task at hand. If it is urgent, the protagonist will call.

Deep thought needs concentration. At Velo, we encourage everyone to switch off their notifications and take back control when they need to do some deep thinking. This might be once a day for a few hours, it might be once a week, but you’ll find without them on you’ll concentrate more, improving the quality of your work and the pride in what you produce will lift. Switch them all off and see which ones you miss.

What did we do before web conferencing by appointment?

A strange habit has formed around web conferencing. We ask for an appointment in advance, book it in at an allotted time and every conversation seems to take a multiple of 15 minutes.

In the past, you’d call on the phone (voice only, remember those days!) you’d exchange pleasantries, ask your questions and achieve your aims in minutes.  You wouldn’t wait for the allotted time you wouldn’t spend time organising the scheduled slots and you wouldn’t always take exactly the time that it’s gone into the diary for.

Email and messaging are also on the rise, with individual messages getting shorter and shorter and taking the place of conversation. At Velo, we encourage our team to go back to what we used to do first – pick up the phone and have a chat. Yes, web conferencing has a part to play, but phone calls often get the job done more quickly and have the added benefit that you can get up from that desk and walk around your garden or the park.

Fun can still exist

When we work from home it’s easy to feel isolated. At Velo, we spend a lot of time and effort making fun silly games up to include everybody. We especially use our company-wide instant messaging platform for games that are designed to get to know each other better.

Two lies one truth, abstract pictures from around the house, views from the window, name that film, what song describe you best – these games have all helped us get through the day.  We’ve gone further too, with deliveries packed with fun items to help improve well-being and provoke conversations, such as our Christmas Hamper (pictured at the top of this article).

Ideas come from everywhere and all are welcome, but they have a deeper purpose; they reinforce that everyone is allowed to still have fun together.

If you’re in the office, you read the mood, you make jokes, you get people involved with the banter and you laugh together.  It’s really important to us that regardless of whether we’re at home or in the office, our team work well together.

Commuting time was your time

When we travelled to the office every day whether it be car, train, tube, bike or walk, it was your time. Many read, others watched films or listen to podcasts, but everyone does something that they enjoy – only a minority would work throughout. In a home-working environment, that commuting time is still precious and should be protected.

We encourage the team to use the time to walk around the block, go for a run, take the kids to school, pop to the shop, grab a coffee…. Just try and form a routine that keeps it precious and works for you.

As somebody living in Surrey and commuting to London, my commute can be anything between 45 minutes to an hour. That’s two hours a day, five days a week. Add that up, and my commuting time equates to an extra day’s work, all week. Recovery time is important for your wellbeing and helps you have more great ideas.

Flexible working will be the pattern of the future

In the beginning, home working was a novelty; interesting and temporary. It’s not. It’s here to stay, but the bad habits and blurred boundaries will stay too unless we’re careful. It’s so important that the facilities at home are professional, suitable and safe.

It can feel convenient to use the kitchen table with an inappropriate chair, to hunch over on the laptop and squint at a small screen. It leads to back pain, discomfort and affects well-being. Having the right equipment in the office and at home is important for the individual and the agency.

At Velo, we’re still finding our way on the best methods of translating the energy and engagement we have in the office to a hybrid environment, but the first step is recognising when bad habits are forming.

As we move to a hybrid operation with some working in person and others remotely, we’re anticipating new challenges as a new chapter begins. We know one thing – crafting great work needs great teamwork and great concentration. Wherever you are.

Paul Crabtree

Paul Crabtree

Managing Director

An IDM-qualified senior sales and marketing professional who has held board positions in various marketing agencies since 2005. Although he claims not to look old enough, the emerging silver locks tell a different story. As MD, founder and owner of Velo, his role is to lead the agency maintaining our quality standards to be the level that means we continue to be built on recommendation. He has a particular focus on new business, overseeing all our client relationships and leading our strategy function to make sure that our team has the skills and capabilities that our clients need, so we continue always craft great work to be proud of. Find him on LinkedIn here.