How to Work Flexibly Post-Pandemic: Your Guide to Partial Telecommuting

With the many types of flexible work arrangements emerging, the ways of working are changing. It can get confusing to understand their differences, unique advantages and challenges. In this article, we focus on partial telecommuting, also called partial remote work. From an employee’s perspective, this can either mean you work from an office location some of the time and remotely (from another location) other times. Partially remote can also refer to a company where some employees always work from the office, while others work remotely all the time.

Both scenarios result in a hybrid team setup, with remote and on-site employees working together. Hybrid teams unite the best of both worlds, with the advantages of an office and those of remote work. However, they don’t come without challenges. For partially telecommuting employees, the possibilities are to either define an individual agreement with your company or follow a team- or company-wide policy. 

With the rise of working from home due to the pandemic many companies now offer some form of telecommuting. However, it’s still not the standard nor is it commonly considered by companies. Especially when it comes to building sustainable hybrid setups many companies are lagging behind. Luckily recent statistics by Owllabs show that 92% of people expect to work from home at least 1x a week after the pandemic. This means the majority wants to telecommute flexibly and they expect it more than pre-Pandemic. Additionally, 81% felt that their employer would support some form of telecommuting now compared to before the pandemic. These are positive indicators for more hybrid teams. However, as an individual, you should be proactive about finding an arrangement that best works for you. 

Different Potential Hybrid Company Set-Ups

There are many different aspects to consider when looking at working flexibly post-pandemic. A partially remote set-up can differ from company to company, team to team or even between employees. This is why it’s crucial to understand different potential remote set-ups to find the best fit for you both as an individual and as a company. We recently came across an article we loved about the pros and cons of different hybrid work models by Range. It’s important to remember that these definitions may vary between companies, however, we find that they’re closest to what we envision as flexible work models at acework.

Fully remote – Remote-first, no formal offices.

Default Digital – Remote-first, full flexibility. Drop in co-working spaces in certain locations. No requirement of location. Individuals may be remote or in the office on no fixed schedule

Static Hybrid –  Individuals will make a choice of being based in the office or remote permanently.

Synchronized Hybrid – Teams, or companies, work from the office on the same days. e.g. Tuesday to Thursday in the office.

Dynamic Hybrid – Associated with an office, but work from home available on a non-deterministic schedule.

For their full Hybrid Work Model see the post by Range here.

When it comes to partial telecommuting, it’s important to look at what is considered the “default” at the company. When the standard is location flexibility, it’s easier to achieve a remote-first mindset and inclusiveness of non-office employees. This means more ease for remote individuals and in-office workers to collaborate and foster connections. However, in some setups, the office still is considered the standard. This suggests the company is working towards a more flexible foundation by allowing partial telecommuting but with restrictions.

The Benefits of Partial Telecommuting 

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If you worked from home during the pandemic, there are many reasons why partial telecommuting could be a worthwhile option for you. There are many things to consider when negotiating with your current employer or looking for a new one. Consider benefits ranging from a better work-life balance to choosing a location based on comfort, inspiration or productivity. 

  1. Increased productivity: As opposed to being stuck at home all the time, flexible work means you can choose a location. Whether that’s one with fewer distractions or one that stimulates you to be creative or productive. Being able to choose when and where you work can make you more productive and resilient to stress. 
  1. Less/no commute time: Not only is a long commute often a waste of time, but it’s also bad for your mental health and the planet. In an article by Zapier they brought together studies on the effects of commute time and none were positive. One study says that people with longer commutes have an increased likelihood of depression, stress, financial problems and less sleep. Different to this is a “virtual” commute, which should help you to get into the zone and decompress after work.
  1. Better well-being: Already with the lack of commute time it means better mental and suggestively physical health. No traffic, loud noises or being late to work take out a lot of the stress surrounding our workdays. In addition, a flexible schedule allows for better integration of professional goals and responsibilities with personal ones. For example, being able to work flexibly means parents and carers can structure their days more effectively, to both increase work output as well as maximise their support for relatives. This again, allows you to give your best at work. 

Four Key Tips for Successful Partial Telecommuting

Partial remote work comes with its own set of challenges. Whether you’re part of a hybrid team, or as one of a few partial remote workers, setting yourself up for success in a hybrid environment depends on your own actions. In addition, company-wide structures and should also support both in-office and distributed employees equally. Work with your company or choose one that makes efforts to build those structures.

Focus on building relationships 

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When you are new to a team, relationships with direct reports, immediate colleagues, as well as other employees outside of your direct circle, are harder to build when working remotely. Instead of only having informal chats and hangouts when you or others are at the office, look out for and create opportunities to bond virtually.

Understanding your colleagues individually can build rapport and trust amongst the team as a whole. This means when you need something or have a tough topic to discuss there’s already a level of understanding of character. 

When the in-office team is going out for drinks and bonding, virtual team members miss out, losing that social and informal aspect crucial to a successful team. Successful hybrid teams have structures and opportunities in place for virtual bonding, whether that’s virtual drinks, games, or regular coffee chats. They also dedicate some time of regular meetings to informal chit-chat, knowing that not everyone has the chance to do this prior to the meeting. 

At acework we host a “coffee chat” every Thursday for 30 minutes of informal chat. So if a team member is travelling, has some news to share or just wants to socialise we can all connect there. 

If you happen to be one of only a few partially remote workers, being proactive about reaching out to colleagues for social time is especially important. 

Bridge the information gap

Sharing information is the backbone of any company. Without information, a company can’t focus. This is why it’s so important to successfully communicate as a remote team member as well as document and demonstrate your work. A potential risk for partial telecommuters is to compensate for their “absence” with over-communication or overworking.

Therefore, clear agreements about availability, response times, and channel use (e.g. where to communicate what) are crucial. Spelling those out with your team, superior and direct reports is critical to avoid misinformation and delays resulting in blocking other people’s work.

If time-zones are an issue, figure out  times when synchronous communication is possible. This includes meetings, and back and forth chats. Use those for problem solving only, and find other ways to inform others of progress and work status, for example in project files and folders, and task management tools. .

This avoids an “always on” mentality, many partially remote workers have when they are absent from the office. 

Have a solid structure 

Photo by Susan Holt Simpson on Unsplash

The first step is to set core working hours so everyone, both on and offsite knows when to be online. This enables effective communication as all meetings, questions and collaborative efforts take place then. It also means that if you work partially remote this is the time you have to be online.

In addition to clear agreements for availability and response times, knowing when you have regular check-ins with the team are important pillars of hybrid collaboration. Instead of constant last-minute meetings, dedicating regular synchronous time actually allows for more flexibility.

At acework we have a weekly “all-hands” every Monday. This is to catch up on the previous week and update each other on the work for the rest of the week. If you work more synchronously, having a daily check-in with the whole team can also be beneficial. For a social aspect, we have a weekly “coffee chat” on Thursdays to connect and chat about anything not work-related. This can include home life, family, trips, holidays and all of the above. Creating those deeper relationships that are more than just work can help build rapport and trust amongst the team. 

Be Proactive

By telecommuting part-time each week you can boost productivity, job satisfaction and overall engagement. However, partial telecommuting also means relying more on your internal motivation and managing your time and effort well. There’s no one to watch over you so it’s important to have the motivation to be productive day to day. The perk of this is being able to choose a location that works for you. Whether that’s at home, a coworking space or your local coffee shop.

When it comes to requesting feedback, or providing it, you may have to become more proactive than you would at an office. The same goes for learning and development opportunities. To avoid an “out of sight, out of mind” bias from your manager, ensure that you have a plan in place that includes your development options on a quarterly basis. Growth opportunities are a key aspect many employees look for in a company. So speaking about your wants and needs can help your manager better support you. Not only will this help you in the long run but also build on skills needed in a partially remote workforce.

You can find some additional tips on how to work with a partially remote team here. If you’re managing or going to manage a hybrid team, this is how you can get started. Also watch out for these pitfalls when managing a partially remote team.

At acework, we enable businesses to build their successful distributed workforce. We support you with advice for hybrid and remote team building, as well as recruiting vetted talent for flexible positions. 

Our advisory creates actionable strategies for companies based on their culture, processes, and business needs. Schedule a free strategy session to start building your high-performing distributed team. If you’re looking to hire top vetted remote or flexible talent, register your company and start hiring here.

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Assess your remote readiness with this free, remote-ready checklist, that we created for individuals working or looking to work remotely. The checklist includes essentials such as:

  1. Reliable, high-speed internet connectivity
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  3. Experience with current productivity tools… and 13 other expert tips to help you assess your remote readiness.