Before COVID-19, you probably fantasized about working from home. You imagined calling in from an exotic beachside office or hosting meetings from your couch with your puppy beside you. With the kids away at school, you’d have plenty of time to focus on yourself — and work, of course.
But the realities of the pandemic shattered this dream. Quarantine restrictions, virtual schooling, and layoffs upended life as you knew it. You suddenly had to juggle everything, and “working from home” became incredibly loaded. The good (and bad) news is you’re not alone: Nearly 10 million working mothers face a similar reality.
As the world moves closer to “normal” — whatever that looks like — you might feel pressured to pick between staying home with your family or going back to an office. That’s where a hybrid workforce model can help. According to research by PricewaterhouseCoopers, 55% of employees want to work remotely one to four days a week, and 32% of employers plan to increase how often employees can telecommute. If you don’t want to choose between work or family, this new way of working can positively impact your life.
How You Can Capitalize on a Hybrid Workforce
While hybrid work requires some adjustments, it’s a rewarding option for many working mothers. When I was a new mom, a hybrid workforce model allowed me to continue my career, adjust to life with a baby, and be more present for my son. I intentionally stacked my hours during my three days a week at the office, working reduced hours during my two days at home. This let me take ownership of my time.
If you’ve experienced pressure to prioritize work over family — whether self-inflicted, due to a culture of overwork, or because you were disproportionately affected by the pandemic — then the hybrid workplace model could be your solution. Here’s how you can make the most of it:
1. Know your strengths and weaknesses.
It’s easy to fall into the “should” trap. There isn’t one right way to do things, and this applies to the way you work. One of the greatest benefits of a hybrid position is the ability to own your time and live intentionally.
Think carefully about whether you’d benefit from a hybrid setup because it isn’t for everyone. Be honest with yourself about your strengths, weaknesses, and unique situational challenges. Do you excel at self-motivation, or would you work better in a quiet office? Depending on your answers, you might flourish in a hybrid environment.
2. Have a game plan.
When you no longer have to commute, you can spend more time on things that matter. Plus, when you have control over your environment, you can focus on how you work best. This could translate into better productivity and more free time. Use it wisely.
To increase productivity, establish a regular schedule and set goals for work and home. If you have young children, determine who will care for them when you work. Spell out when you will do other activities, such as eat lunch and exercise. Add every aspect of your routine to your calendar, and take your schedule seriously — just like you would in a regular office.
3. Be proactive with communication.
Working in a hybrid position means you get to enjoy the benefits of in-person collaboration and remote work. At home, you can get dressed from the waist up, dive into work from your kitchen table, and slip out for some sunshine during a break. Being isolated at home or racing into the office every day can be difficult. But a hybrid workplace? It feels right.
Remember, though, that working relationships are crucial. When you’re not in the office, stay connected to teammates, employees, and your bosses via email and communication tools like Slack or Zoom. You can’t read context or emotions through a screen, so it’s vital to overcommunicate and stay on top of things.
4. Focus on producing results.
A hybrid workforce shifts priorities from schedules to deliverables. In some work environments, overwork is promoted like a badge of honor. In a hybrid workplace, it’s more important that you finish your work on time and produce results. What matters most is that you’re getting things done — not how many hours you’re clocking.
To maximize deliverables, learn to prioritize and meet your deadlines. Don’t procrastinate. This proves that you’re trustworthy and capable of working from home. Plus, blazing through your work when you’re at home gives you more time to do other things, such as tending to household chores or playing games with your kiddos.
5. Prevent burnout with boundaries.
Hybrid jobs have their own schedules and demands, but they’re generally more flexible than office jobs. However, this flexibility depends on how you manage others, how independently you work, and the number of days you have at home. You may need to create some boundaries to set yourself up for success.
If your kids are young, for example, they may not understand why you’re not playing with them when you’re home. Or if your boss sees you working at odd hours, she might start expecting you to be reachable after 5 p.m. These scenarios could require difficult conversations with your family or colleagues to move forward meaningfully.
Ultimately, what you need as a working mother is to feel empowered in your day-to-day life. The biggest benefit of the hybrid workforce model is autonomy, which can be achieved with the right schedule. If you’re struggling to choose between your family and work, talk with your employer about (or look for a job that offers) hybrid work options.