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As organizations develop return-to-the-office plans, it’s a good time to think through your own preferences. At best, you will be consulted and your wishes assented to. At worst, you’ll understand why the ultimate decision rankles and whether it’s worth finding a better working arrangement elsewhere.

“My work (and experience) with anxiety suggests that it’s important to start by naming what you’re feeling, and then to play detective around possible sources and solutions,” Morra Aarons-Mele, a consultant and host of The Anxious Achiever podcast, writes in Harvard Business Review.

Detectives, of course, wield questions in their probes, and she offers four for you to ponder:

  • What do I want my days to look like? Before addressing the future and your bigger-picture career goals, take a step back to evaluate the current situation. What’s great about your remote day? What do you abhor? Also, what bad habits have arisen?
  • What stresses me out? You want to take time to consider your major stressors and how they play out working from home versus being in the office. Overall, she finds two stressors emerging for many people. The first is role confusion – while at home people have to separate when they are worker, parent, partner or housekeeper. The second is anxiety if your boss equates effectiveness with face time and you won’t feel comfortable unless back in the office. “Don’t be afraid to dig deep here – it can be challenging, but you’ll learn a lot about what’s causing your anxiety deep down,” she writes.
  • How does my boss define success? She references consultant Cali Yost, who believes a manager wants to know two things: Where you are and whether you get the work done. Managers also don’t want your flexible schedule to create more work for them or the team. Figure out what specifically your boss cherishes and propose metrics to be measured for any remote work.
  • What do I value? What has the pandemic period revealed about what you want for your work life and how can that best be achieved in the remote/office decision?

The Muse editor Regina Borsellino offers some additional questions that could be helpful if you are facing a hybrid work situation:

What schedule will help your productivity the most?: The question is obvious but the answer may not be. Mariel Davis, co-founder of the audio app Spokn, says for most people, work isn’t just a single task. Using your remote time and your in-office time efficiently requires you to figure out not just when and where you work best, but which of your job duties are best completed in the office and which at home. Ms. Borsellino also advises considering which days and times of the day are you most focused, and how can you take advantage of your environment in those periods?

What schedule will give you access to professional opportunities you want and need?: “If you’re looking for professional opportunities within your current job, be sure you’re taking into account how decreased face time with your managers, teammates, and others at the company might affect your ability to get them, as well as how you can be sure you’re still being noticed and recognized for the work you do even if you’re physically in the office less,” she advises.

What hybrid work schedule will give you the optimal amount of social interaction?: Working from home, people missed the social interaction of the office. But before rushing back ask yourself whether the social atmosphere of your office is positive, neutral or negative and what value you actually get from being there. Do you benefit mostly from being with a few co-workers, and could you co-ordinate your schedules?

Understand what you want and need, so if there’s wiggle room when your organization announces its policy you will be better poised to take advantage.

Quick hits

  • At the home or office, your phone is a distraction. Move it out of your line of sight, advises consultant Kevin Eikenberry, co-author of two books on remote work.
  • On your vacation, consider setting up a separate e-mail account for that period, giving it only to people you want to stay in touch with, suggests productivity writer Alexandra Samuel.
  • Patience is a competitive advantage, argues author James Clear. In a surprising number of fields you will find success if you are willing to do the reasonable thing longer than most other people.
  • The content development trick that works every time is to begin with a one-sentence summary of your message, says Mimi Johnson, of the Ethos3 design agency.
  • Executive coach Ed Battista opted for a standing desk as he found himself making more and more remote presentations; he finds it easier to express emotion and convey enthusiasm when standing. To ease the burden on your feet with a standing desk he recommends alternating between the calculated terrain Top Comfort Mat by Ergodriven and a more standard antifatigue kitchen mat.

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