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The 5 Work Modes, Decoded (Plus Tools For Every Type)

The 5 Work Modes, Decoded (Plus Tools For Every Type)

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What's your work calendar looking like this week? If you're Zoom-hopping from team meetings and strategy sessions to quick syncs and brainstorms—while trying to get your actual work done somewhere in between—we see you. 😮‍💨 

And it’s no wonder why work feels so hard to get done: 200 hours are wasted each year searching for knowledge and 9% of our time at work is lost toggling between tabs. Our friends at Loom also reported that employees spend around three hours a week using communication methods they don’t even prefer.

With everything you do in a given work day, you're constantly shifting between different levels of focus. At Tango, we call these our work modes.

Each work mode requires a different mindset, skill set, and tool set. Hint: The first two are a lot easier to get right than the third. But the key is adding (and using!) the right tools to make your tech stack work for whatever mode you’re in.

In this post, we’ll decode the five different work modes and the tools you can use to get the most out of each of them.

What are the 5 work modes?

At Tango, we think about work modes on a spectrum: 

The five work modes listed from most focused, to most freeform.

When it comes to work, there’s a big difference between tasks that need heads-down focus and the ones that require free-flowing ideas. For example, brainstorming sessions need unstructured time so we can think creatively with others. But when you need to knock out a task ASAP—like setting up a customer email sequence in Hubspot—you just need to get in the zone and get it done, without interruptions and distractions (from your team or all those open tabs 👀).

We’ll cover five work modes in this post—from most focused to most freeform:

  • Get Sh*t Done Mode
  • Training Mode
  • Communicate Mode
  • Collaborate Mode
  • Connect Mode
The five work modes and tools that are optimized for each mode.

Get Sh*t Done Mode

In Get Sh*t Done Mode, you are completely in the flow. You’re checking things off your to-do list at lightning speed. Procrastination? Never heard of it. In this mode, you want to cut the interruptions and knock out your tasks fast—and accurately. Tango is ideal for Get Sh*t Done Mode because it automatically creates step-by-step guides (as you work!) and turns them into interactive walkthroughs for anyone to follow. The interactive walkthroughs pop up without you having to switch tabs or search for them in your knowledge base so you can stay in the flow.

🧘🏽 Mindset mantra: “I am ready to complete the tasks at hand and handle my to-do list.”

✅ Ritual

  • Grab a pair of headphones
  • Turn on a Spotify playlist that “gets you in the zone”
  • Pour a strong cup of coffee (or tea, yerba mate, or other “focus-inducing” beverage of choice)
  • Mute notifications on your phone and Slack
  • Get sh*t done

🛠️ Tool set: The ideal tools for Get Sh*t Done Mode are self-service, don’t require tab switching, and include just the right amount of information to get the job done. 

  • Tango

🎧 Bonus: Get Sh*t Done Mode Playlist

Training Mode

When you have time set aside for training and learning something completely new, you are in Training Mode. Think: your first day at a new job or onboarding a new software. Your focus level is still strong, but you don’t mind asking and answering questions or having a conversation. This is the mode for upskilling, onboarding, and shadowing. Videos and Learning Management Systems are great for this mode. 

🧘🏽 Mindset mantra: “I am excited to learn something new and I am ready to spend the time and attention it takes to understand.”

✅ Ritual

  • Grab a notepad (or open a notetaking app)
  • Get ready to read, watch, or listen
  • Write down questions that will help you achieve understanding
  • Tee up notes to people asking for help as needed

🛠️ Tool set: The ideal training tools break content down into bite-size chunks and give you a chance to test what you learned. 

  • Lessonly
  • Trainual
  • YouTube

Communicate Mode

When you’re trying to get nuanced ideas or information across, you’re in Communicate Mode. In this mode, it’s important that each person gives and gets the full context. You might send a quick Slack message to clarify a point of confusion, record a video to explain a concept or process, or write a long email to outline important information that can be referenced later. In these situations, the extra words and context can actually be important. 

🧘🏽 Mindset mantra: “I am ready to give and get all of the information needed to accomplish our goals.”

✅ Ritual

  • Write or record everything that’s on your mind 
  • Step away for a few moments to get a fresh perspective
  • Review communications to ensure you captured all information
  • Share and ask the recipient if they have any questions
  • Repeat as necessary until the goal is accomplished

🛠️ Tool set: Ideal communication tools are asynchronous and don’t involve live meetings. 

  • Slack or Microsoft Teams
  • Loom
  • Email

Collaborate Mode

If you and your team are working together to create something new, you’re in Collaborate Mode.  This mode encourages creativity and invites everyone’s ideas and perspectives to the table. The key to Collaborate Mode? Real-time feedback loops and the ability to share long-form explanations. This is prime “no idea is a bad idea” time—you want all ideas to be documented so you can refer to it later. 

🧘🏽 Mindset mantra: “I am ready to keep my mind open and create something with others.”

✅ Ritual

  • Prepare and share relevant background with everyone involved
  • Communicate shared values and acknowledge everyone’s unique contribution
  • Come up with new ideas as a group
  • Capture and document ideas for reference at a later time

🛠️ Tool set: Great collaboration tools are also asynchronous so everyone has an equal chance to share their ideas. 

  • Notion
  • Guru
  • Figma
  • Miro
  • Google Docs

Connect Mode

Your job isn’t just about the work you do—it’s also about the people you work with. That’s what Connect Mode is all about: building trust and relationships with others. We thrive in this mode when we can have freeform, live conversations and feel the energy of our teammates. Setting up an in-person chat or a Zoom call—without a strict agenda—is perfect for Connect Mode.

🧘🏽 Mindset mantra: “I am excited to build relationships and trust with others.”

✅ Ritual

  • Do some research on the people you are meeting with to get understanding of who will be in the room or on the call
  • Ask an icebreaker question at the beginning of the meeting to get people ready to connect with one another
  • Be present and put a smile on! (If you feel like it 🙂)
  • Send a follow up note thanking participants

🛠️ Tool set: Live video and other synchronous meeting tools are great for connecting. Make sure your camera is on! 

  • Zoom
  • Donut (Slack integration)
  • Gatheround
  • Butter

The bottom line

Even the best software tools can make your job harder to do if you’re not using them for the right work mode. Think about it: Video messaging works great for Communicate Mode—but if you’re in Get Sh*t Done Mode? You don’t want to spend your mental energy watching a 10-minute video when a two-sentence tool tip could have done the trick. When you optimize the tools in your tech stack for each of the five work modes, you can do your best work—no matter what mode you’re in.

Ready to enter Get Sh*t Done Mode?


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