The Technology that every hybrid employee needs to make work smoother—and more productive

Workers require a system to deal with the unique issues of dividing their work week.

As offices reopen, more people are dividing their time between home and work, with a third place, such as a neighborhood coffee shop or co-working space, thrown in for good measure. Even if you were one of the happy ones who received equipment and help from your employer's IT team while setting up your home office, it's time to rethink your setup to address the unique issues of splitting your workweek (or daily) between multiple places.

Here are five digital tools that every hybrid worker should have in their toolbox to make their work as seamless—and productive—as possible.

Software for brainstorming on the go

Much of the motivation for going to work is to take advantage of the spark that can only be experienced when you're face to face with your coworkers. The meeting's ideas and innovations are usually reinforced by extending the conversation over lunch or scheduling a follow-up meeting for the next day.

It's more difficult to keep the momentum going when everyone leaves the meeting and goes home for a couple of days of remote work. That's why having brainstorming and note-taking tools that make it easier to carry on with your in-person work when you get home is critical.

Use a cloud-based mind-mapping or virtual whiteboard tool like MindMeister or Miro instead of a physical whiteboard to capture suggestions from the room and project them onto the board as the conversation progresses. These programs allow you to write down each concept as a word or phrase, then connect them in a tree or flow chart.

If you can't get the group to stop using dry-erase boards, take a picture of the board after the meeting and transfer it into a digital notepad app with optical character recognition. That way, your whiteboard photos will be text-searchable, and you won't have to sift through your photo library to find the one with the "new product strategy" comment.

A bag for when you're on the go

I've found that getting out of the house, even on an at-home day, helps me focus and be more productive, which is why I have a bag packed that allows me to stroll out the door and settle in at a coffee shop. (I've lately resumed doing it!)

You can't rely on anything other than what's in your backpack when you're spending part of your workweek in a third place. That means you'll need an extra—and extra-small—version of everything in your travel bag at all times. (If you take them out of your bag at home, you may not have them at the coffee shop.)

Because I can't always locate a table near an outlet, my backpack always has the tiniest laptop charger I could find—with the longest power cable I could buy. I also have a USB keychain with a double-ended connector (so it can be plugged into USB-A or USB-C ports), a fully charged phone battery, a pair of corded headphones in case my Bluetooth earbuds run out of juice, and a dongle that allows me to plug in headphones and charge at the same time.

One other thing: I pay for a VPN service that encrypts all of my internet traffic and routes it through a secured network. When I'm on a public Wi-Fi network, like the one at my local coffee shop, this is a critical security safeguard for preserving my privacy and data.

Tablets for the train

On your office days, you can listen to podcasts, audiobooks, or articles you've saved while driving to work (if you use a text-to-speech app). You can also unwind by listening to music.

If you commute by train or bus, though, you have a few extra options to assist you transition smoothly from the trip to the office, and then from transit to your house. The most important component is a small laptop or tablet with a keyboard or pen, which allows you to handle email and even compose documents. It's also a good idea to use apps that make it simple to get up and running once you get at your location. I use a small utility software that groups together all of my open apps and windows: when I commuted, it was configured to open Word, Excel, and Outlook when I arrived at work, then browser windows with Facebook and Netflix when I came home. If you have separate computers at home and at work, use the same browser in both locations and keep it synchronized so you can access the same extensions and bookmarks.

Time trackers

One of the drawbacks of hybrid work is that it disrupts the routine that most of us have when we're either at home or at work full time: It's difficult to establish a constant habit and pace when each day of the week has its own location and timetable.

I use a time-tracking tool that runs in the background and tells me where all my time went to preserve my valuable at-home work time from the perils of the internet. You can utilize parental controls to prevent your access to issue applications or sites throughout the workday once you've identified where you waste time or lose focus. If you have a similar problem at work, you can use time-tracking software there as well—or use your time-tracking report to demonstrate how difficult it is to acquire uninterrupted time at work, and use that to justify spending more days at home.

More and bigger screens

When it comes to their screen experience, many workers have typically lived a double life: they use a laptop at home and a huge work-provided monitor—or monitors—at work.

That might work if you're only home a few days a month. But if you're truly hybrid and work from home multiple days a week, that won't cut it. Wherever you're working, you'll need numerous enormous screens.

As someone who has spent much of the last decade staring at a laptop screen, I can attest to this. However, as the pandemic drove me to begin writing at home rather than in coffee shops or on aircraft, I discovered the thrill of working with wide screens—as many as possible. On days when you're at home, even one large external display can significantly boost your productivity. You can now see the complete spreadsheet or keep half an eye on the Slack messages that are popping up on your laptop while drafting your report on your enormous, main screen.

A virtual portal for co-working can be created by adding a second full-size monitor to the arrangement. You can communicate with colleagues (and actually see them!) while working on a shared document or planning a marketing campaign using a cloud-based project-management application if you dedicate that monitor to videoconferencing software.

Of course, the cost is a drawback to all of this. And it's why the spread of hybrid labor might benefit electronics manufacturers and merchants greatly.

Employers and employees, on the other hand, stand to benefit greatly. The goal is to have the tools you need to reduce the friction of a disjointed work life while maximizing the benefits.

 

 

For more information on optimizing your IT and securing your network, contact RCS Professional Services to speak with an IT professional or visit our website www.rcsprofessional.com.

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