As the COVID-19 pandemic begins to slow down and normality returns, many workers will return to their offices. The 20-plus months spent working from home have changed the work environment and workers themselves. If you are headed back to the office, starting hybrid work and returning to what was once normal can be challenging.
Navigating the transition back to working in an office can be difficult. However, it’s a good idea to reframe your return to the office as an opportunity to reinforce good work habits, build relationships with bosses and coworkers, and boost your career. Discover some tips to help you readjust to your work environment and make the best of the transition.
Being nervous about going back to the office five days a week is perfectly normal. The idea of communing, particularly on crowded public transportation and working in an enclosed office, seems to go against all recommended health advice over the past two years.
The best way to deal with this anxiety or work-related mental health issues is to plan for them. If you are nervous about meetings, try sitting in the back or away from other workers. If you are anxious about taking crowded trains or buses, try to go to work earlier or at a less crowded time to avoid the peak-hour rush. Planning for stressful situations can eliminate anxiety and help you readjust more comfortably.
Be Kind, Understanding, and Compassionate
This pandemic was difficult for many people. Some people lost loved ones or endured severe illness, others suffered from the isolation of quarantine, and others were affected by the wider effects of this time, loss of income, and difficulties and stress caused by social issues.
You and your colleagues went through this traumatic time together, and this is an opportunity to grow in compassion and understanding for your fellow workers. Discuss with your coworkers what might be giving them anxiety and help them plan for it, excuse them from meetings if that is stressful, or eat lunch with them if they are lonely.
Even something as simple as a “Hello” when you walk past their desks can make your coworkers feel you are there for them and willing to build bridges of kindness to overcome the gaps the pandemic has exposed.
Going back to work will mean saying goodbye to rolling out of bed and getting on Zoom one minute before work starts. While this might make many people groan in frustration, this can be an opportunity to establish healthy, productivity-boosting routines.
Try waking up early and doing a short workout to get the blood pumping. Studies have shown that your morning routine sets the tempo for your day, so start things off energetically and productively to boost your work performance throughout the day.
If you aren’t the athletic type, it is still vital to establish a routine in the office. Make a habit of starting your workday with the same activity, like answering all emails, and try to take lunch at the same time every day. A work finishing routine like a quick journal entry of everything you’ve accomplished during the day can be helpful for tracking your growth and performance and reflecting on areas where you could improve.
Benefit From Your Commute
One of the biggest differences remote workers will face when returning to physical offices will be the commute. Depending on the length and distance, it can add a few hours to the work day, often spent in traffic or stuffed into buses or trains.
Don’t see this as wasted time; this is the perfect time to listen to a book or podcast. Many business titans like Bill Gates recommend reading 50 books annually, and 88% of highly successful people read at least 30 minutes daily. Your commute time can help you achieve that goal. Use this time to grow your business acumen and knowledge, or just listen to something funny to put yourself at ease.
Make Your Workspace Your Own
When you return to your normal office, be sure to decorate your desk or office with meaningful pictures, mementos, and objects to personalize your space.
These pictures and decorations can help reduce anxiety and even make you better at your job. Studies have shown that workers who have pictures of their families displayed on their desks are more ethical, honest, and forthright.
Arrange Frequent Meetings With Your Boss
There is a vast difference between dealing with your boss as a remote employee and having a good working relationship in the office. Gone are the days of video calls, video conferencing, and proving in every way that you are productive working from home.
Cultivate a good relationship with your boss by meeting frequently, building both a professional and a mentoring relationship. Use these meetings to monitor your professional progress and keep your career on track.
Regular meetings with your boss can foster positive communication channels and help your return to the office run smoothly. If you found yourself over-communicating with your boss during the remote work era, keep up the habit. Just because you are in the same physical building doesn’t mean everyone is up to speed on everything. Keep communication open, proactive, and productive.
Make an Effort to Know Your Coworkers
Interacting with coworkers in person is going to be a change. But it is essential to rebuild professional employee relationships to foster a positive work environment.
Have coffee with coworkers, learn more about them, and rebuild your company’s work culture. If you are a leader or in a management role, it is particularly important that you set the tone for in-office relationships.
The first few weeks are critical. Create a welcoming, friendly environment that eases the transition back to the office and promotes productivity. Try hosting team-building activities and social events like trivia nights, escape rooms, or scavenger hunts.
One of workers’ most common complaints when readjusting to an office environment is difficulty dealing with distractions. The range of distractions is very different from the distractions faced working in a home office. Many people feel that the distractions cause a dip in productivity and hurt output quality.
One of the best ways to avoid distractions is to plan your day meticulously. Block out as much of your time as possible; even block out specific times to respond to emails. The more precise you are with scheduling yourself, the less room there is for distraction, and the easier it is to stay on track with your work.
If you are distracted by a particular activity or coworker, be proactive about fixing it. If there is a loud meeting next to your office at the same time every day, schedule something that gets you out of your office at that time. If a coworker is distracting you, politely ask them to give you some space to get your work done.
Some distraction prevention strategies you used at home also work well in the office and may help the transition from remote to in-person work go more smoothly. Install productivity apps on your computer and electronic devices like Block Site, Focus Me, or Freedom. Use noise-canceling headphones to block out ambient office noise or rowdy conferences.
One often-reported downside of working from home was the blurring of work and home life. Zoom calls took us all into each other’s homes, and the 24/7 availability of all workers caused the work day to seem never-ending.
Returning to the office is an opportunity to re-establish firm boundaries between work and home life. Discuss rules and procedures for emails outside of work hours with your boss and team. Try not to bring work home, do as much as possible in the office and leave work there.
Most research shows that workers are happier when there is a sharp divide between work and home life. Use this as an opportunity to negotiate your boundaries and promote a healthier work-life balance.
Opportunity in Change
The return to working in an office is an opportunity to improve your work-life balance and boost your career. Although it can be a daunting, stressful time, this is a time you can use to promote better habits, be more productive, and make the most out of your work day. Use this reset as a new beginning and become a better worker.
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