Strategies for Designing Effective In-Person Workdays

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We might have moved from the office to our home and back to the office again. No matter our situation, one thing is for sure, these changing environments have disrupted our work routines, leaving us wondering how we can reclaim our productivity.

Whether you’re re-integrating into working in-person, or you’ve hit a rut in your in-person work environment, we’re here to help.

We spoke with several business leaders to learn how to make our in-person workdays effective and productive.

Set the Agenda

First and foremost, we need a game plan. The Expert Panel from the Young Entrepreneurship Council claims that we should be setting weekly agendas before the work week begins. Sean Doherty, GM of Box Genie agrees.

“Trying to plan your week when the work has already begun is challenging and ineffective,” says Sean Doherty. “Your mind is already focusing on the projects at hand, and you’ll feel like you’re playing catch up with all of the tasks you need to get done. Set aside time at the end of one workweek to plan and prepare for the next. Prioritize what projects need to be completed first and delegate responsibilities amongst team members. This way, everyone will have a clear idea of what the coming work week entails.”

Weekly debriefs are excellent opportunities to set agendas. Team members can analyze completed projects, and identify what still needs work and where people could use support. Ensure that in-person, hybrid, and online workers have access to the weekly debrief even if they cannot attend.

Setting the agenda can also make each workday fruitful. Jorge Vivar, Creative Director of Mode describes the impact of establishing daily goals.

Jorge Vivar states, “Setting goals daily helps you become more productive in all areas of your life. Creating a checklist can be part of your morning routine, including professional and personal goals. Determine what you need and want to get done during work hours and what commitments you have outside of work. Checklists reduce the stress that comes with a busy schedule. Using a checklist, you can organize each day by setting aside time for specific tasks. You will save time by creating a checklist before your workday begins, and at the end of each day, you can gauge how productive you and your team were.”

After setting the agenda, the next step is to stick with it. To stay on track, it’s imperative to avoid multitasking.

Avoid Multitasking

Despite all our efforts, we “multitaskers” have had to come to terms with the fact that multitasking is impossible. Research demonstrates that balancing multiple tasks at once makes us less efficient and creative.

Phyllis Korkki, an assignment editor for the New York Times, claims, “Your ability to get things done depends on how well you can focus on one task at a time, whether it’s for five minutes or an hour.”

“No matter where you’re working, distractions are going to battle for your attention,” says Umer Usman, Head of Growth at AvantStay. “Even items on your to-do list can act as distractions. You can avoid completing imperative tasks by working on non-essential, simple ones. We try to work on these smaller tasks simultaneously, feeling accomplished that we’ll be able to cross more items off the to-do list. However, we spend more time and energy on these tasks than necessary. By the end of the day, our primary assignment is incomplete. Practice working on one project at a time with designated breaks. Start with the items highest on your priority list, and complete them. If you still have time during your work hours, then you can focus on low-priority tasks.”

As Umer Usman states, monotasking doesn’t mean you have to work non-stop on one task your entire workday. It’s beneficial to take designated breaks.

Take Breaks

While working in person, you likely have a designated lunch break. These are necessary, healthy times to refresh yourself. They give you space to nurture your body and build relationships with coworkers. However, a lunch break doesn’t have to be your only pause from work in the office. Incorporating microbreaks throughout your day can boost your productivity.

Gia Marie Jurosky, Director of Communications of RoseSkinCo claims, “Since our brains can only focus intently on one task for so long and distractions are so prevalent, breaks are necessary. They allow you to deconstruct the monotony of a workday. When working at your desk, you tend to be sedentary for hours. Taking breaks gives your body the chance to move. They increase your energy and help you refocus on the task at hand. Set timers for yourself to refuel and recharge.”

You can use microbreaks to indulge in a quick distraction so long as you stick to the set intervals. Additionally, it might be best to avoid the distractions involving screens.

Hector Gutierrez, CEO of JOI states, “Distractions aren’t entirely avoidable, but we can do our best to limit them. First, we should try to work away from our phones. If we’re working from a computer, which most of us in the office are, we’re already using significant energy to focus on the texts and images that move across our screen, not to mention the blue light that strains our eyes. Having another screen on hand unnecessarily divides our attention. Even if we’re using our phones as a welcome distraction, they’re taking more energy than they’re giving.”

Another way to increase our productivity is by creating an ideal workspace.

Organize Your Workspace

Your physical space greatly impacts your productivity. There’s no perfect way to organize your desk, office, or computer. Time management experts recommend developing a system that works for you. Set aside space for incoming and outgoing assignments. Decorate your space so that it’s welcoming, calming, and energizing.

“It’s easy to let work pile up in your space,” says Sumeer Kaur, CEO of Lashkaraa. “While you want to keep your work at hand, you want to avoid letting it sit and cause clutter. Looking at a desk full of incomplete tasks is overwhelming, and it’s difficult to focus on one task when you have others right in front of your eyes. While your desk space doesn’t have to be spotless, try to keep the work moving. Organize the assignments that can wait into a folder. Routinely check this folder as you complete assignments with earlier deadlines. When you set to work on a task, clear away anything except the tools you need to complete it.”

Your desk is also a space for creative expression. While working away from home, you want to create an environment that motivates you. Through art, photographs, and knick-knacks, you can make your desk a place that inspires you. However, decorations can also contribute to clutter. Take some time to analyze your space. Are the decorations distracting rather than calming? Are wrappers and unnecessary papers piling up? If so, it’s time to clear the space and start fresh.

Hold Each Other Accountable

One of the greatest perks of working in person is community. The camaraderie of working alongside others is motivating in itself. Your team members are also valuable resources for accountability.

Eric Elggren, Co-Founder of Andar claims, “Procrastination is the antithesis of productivity. We all struggle with it. Though it’s nothing to be ashamed of, it is something we need to combat. The best way to do this is through an accountability system. Some of us are intrinsically motivated enough to hold ourselves accountable. We can give ourselves rewards when we complete assignments on time and penalties when we don’t. However, it’s helpful to find an outside source of accountability. Whether it’s your manager or your coworker, you can have someone else hold you to your goals. Choose someone you respect and trust to keep you accountable. Their expectations will motivate you to avoid distractions and stay on task.”

All of these tips maximize your productivity in an in-person workspace. If it seems challenging to implement all of these tips, Chris Hetherington, Founder and CEO at Peels offers some encouragement.

Max Schwartzapfel states, “Reinventing your workstyle takes time. Many of us have experienced dramatic, forced changes in our work environments and schedules over the past couple of years. It’s hard to stay motivated when our routines seem unstable. The way we define productivity might have changed as well. Know that you don’t have to change everything about how you work to increase productivity. Keep the habits that decrease your stress and boost your motivation. Implement productivity tips incrementally. With practice, you’ll create a workstyle tailored to you.”

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