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Is “in the office” the new “out of office” and what does this concept signal about in-office expectations for hybrid workers? Perhaps it’s a ritualistic concept, a day or two to bond with your colleagues face-to-face, or to come together to cram in regular meetings? Amanda Augustine, careers expert for TopCV shares some of her thoughts about what this means for employees going forward.

Employee expectations in the office
It makes sense to utilise an ‘in the office’ message for your work email because it sets clear expectations for clients, vendors, and those colleagues who may be working remotely at the time that you’ll be away from your laptop more than usual and, therefore, slower to respond to their messages. It may also mean that you’ll have less availability for virtual meetings and phone calls throughout the day.

When you’re working in a hybrid working environment, it’s only natural that your ‘in-office’ days will be filled with meetings and activities that typically are more productive when conducted in-person rather than over a Zoom meeting or phone call. It’s also an opportunity to get to know new colleagues and reconnect with your work friends in ways that can’t be replicated in a virtual office.

The camaraderie you’re able to build whilst in the office will make your virtual communication with these people easier and projects run more effectively when you’re working remotely. Whilst you’re expected to come to the office and get work done, there’s also this—sometimes unspoken—expectation to bond with your teammates and break down some of the barriers that remote work has built up over time.

Is this expectation creating far more work for employees?
Not necessarily. Being in the office might deprive employees of one or two full days of tending to emails, potentially creating more work, but it really depends on how you manage your diary for your in-office and remote working days. You can still block off time to tend to emails when you’re in the office. Depending on your commute, you might be able to review your inbox and flag important emails or tend to some of the quick enquiries during that time.

For managers who may not have all of their staff in the office on the same days, it’s important to define for your team what situations or questions are urgent and then request they label their email subject lines as such to ensure you see and can address the issue in a timely manner whilst you’re in the office.

If your in-office days aren’t structured, you could easily find yourself going from one long coffee chat, to a long lunch, with too little time left to get anything done before it’s time to head home.

It will take some time—and discipline—to get used to this hybrid working arrangement and sort out the best approach to make your in-office days productive as well as valuable team-building opportunities.

Developing the concept of ITO as the new OOO in the coming years
The ITO will become increasingly commonplace over time, but it won’t necessarily replace the traditional OOO message; instead, it will be an additional message that people will grow accustomed to seeing.

There’s a difference between the original OOO message and the new ITO message; an OOO message is meant to indicate to all recipients that you’re officially off the clock and not expected to field phone calls or respond to emails during that time. It’s used when you’re taking a holiday (or off sick or absent) and are planning to unplug or are unreachable.

However, the ITO message is more akin to the type of message you’d use when you would attend a work conference, training seminar, or company offsite. While there’s a good chance you won’t be taking any meetings or responding to emails as quickly, the expectation is that you’re still plugged in and doing work.

Ultimately it’s all about how you word your ITO message to make certain that you set the right expectations.

    Amanda Augustine is a career expert at TopCV, the world's largest-CV writing service. She is a Certified Professional Career Coach (CPCC) with nearly 15 years' experience in the recruiting and career-advice industry.

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