3 productivity lessons you should remember when returning to the office

By Diana Shi

July 09, 2021

As many workers return to the office (at least part time), now’s the moment to apply the lessons learned about the power of flexibility and maximizing efficiency during remote work. These lessons can benefit a whole organization and result in happier, less-burned-out teams.

Here are three productivity tips from remote work to continue implementing as you return to your office:

1. Rein in the multitasking

Juggling multiple tasks simultaneously may feel affirming, but it rarely results in high-quality work and can lead to decreased productivity because you make more mistakes and ultimately expend more energy.

This isn’t to say multitasking isn’t alluring. Too many of us are familiar with the unfortunate sensation of having to shift away from a time-sensitive project to attend an hours-long meeting. It can be easy to tell yourself that you can do both in order to alleviate some stress later on. Multitasking can be especially tempting when working remotely, as workers are often drawn to a side activity, splintering their focus and derailing how present they are during meetings.

But during the pandemic, many learned to resist this draining temptation. And, as you begin to show up to a physical office, continue to fight the urge to multitask. Your brain is getting used to more distractions and input and will likely appreciate the chance to focus on one task at a time.

2. Reduce garbage tasks—don’t just reorganize them

One of the best time-saving strategies is cutting out low-value activities that suck up minutes, energy, and unnecessary space on your to-do list. “Developing a reductive mindset means you adopt a habit—a reflex, tendency, effortless first inclination—to cut the unnecessary,” Juliet Funt, CEO of WhiteSpace at Work, told Fast Company.

This is an especially important tip to keep in mind as you transition back to an office setting, complete with a time-sucking commute, and a limited number of hours in which to get work done. Fast Company contributor Scott Dust says when you’re running up against a fixed amount of time, it’s less about managing your hours and more about filtering things you agree to.

This involves knowing when to shut down new opportunities so you can perform your best on what is already on your plate. Granted, filtering may be difficult for less-senior employees looking to build their career. Instead of outright rejecting requests, look to tailor your meetings and invites to the most essential and constructive occasions. If these sorts of meetings are to occur in person, try to batch them together so you get the most value out of your in-office days.

3. Look out for your well-being

Overworking is a scourge to productivity and can set a bad habit where hustling for a dangerous 55 hours or more per week is normal. Working remotely allowed some employees to start as early as they wanted and end as late as they wanted—without any monitoring of or encouragement to control these impulses. “While team members may feel they’re doing the company a favor, individuals [are] setting themselves up for burnout,” writes Ed Beltran, CEO of Fierce, a training and leadership development firm.

Carry over techniques from the remote work environment such as establishing clear boundaries for when you check work communication and when you’re officially calling it quits for the day. Fast Company writer Stephanie Vozza advises creating an end-of-day ritual to signal to yourself to stop working. When working remotely that might have taken the form of a walk, or time catching up with your roommate or spouse. These rituals are easy to continue when working in person as well; by making time to chat with coworkers before leaving, or listening to your favorite podcast on your commute home, you can signal to yourself that the workday is over.

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