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7 Tips For A Smooth Transition Back To The Office

Alex O'Brien

At times we wondered whether this day would ever come, whilst many offices have chosen to implement a flexible ‘hybrid approach’ to working moving forward, much of the world’s workforce are now preparing to return to the office.

 

“More than two-thirds of workers say they’re concerned about returning to the office.”

As we blow the dust off the iron and set our earlier alarms, it’s only human to ask the question, ‘Is this something that we’re actually looking forward to?’ According to a recent survey more than two-thirds of workers say they’re concerned about returning to the office. In reality, the answer for many is a mixed response. The silence of working at home can be productive, yet 5 days a week can be very isolating for those who feed off social interaction. Also, working from home can be more distracting for many, whether due to kids launching objects at your head while you’re presenting on zoom, the lack of perceived oversight or the memory foam mattress just one stride from your desk.

 

For most, there were at least some beneficial aspects to working remotely, so here are the top 7 tips for a smooth and productive transition back into the office that will protect your wellbeing.

1) Create a (realistic!) morning routine

A consistent morning routine is the backbone of a productive and happy existence, the benefits are both physical and psychological, ‘If you win the morning, you win the day’. The morning is typically a rather chaotic affair for many people, we wrestle with the snooze button and then the rush begins… shower, dress, eat, get kids ready for school etc. With a steady morning routine, you take more control of your morning, bringing a clear structure to your life. In order to create a suitable morning routine, you should consider what your objective is, some examples include being less stressed, losing weight or working on the side project. Depending on your objective you can adjust your morning routine accordingly, with your goal in mind you are much more motivated to start every day on track!

2) Focus on the positives, but don’t feel guilty if you are not totally thrilled!

Let’s face it, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll love every aspect of the return to the office. Maybe you have to tackle the central line during rush hour or your commute to work means you get to sleep an hour less. It’s ok to feel a slight sense of loss, you don’t have to feel guilty about this and you can rest assured many of your colleagues are feeling the same! In order to balance this feeling, try to focus your attention on enjoying the things that you’ve missed, whether that’s the socialising during coffee breaks or the company football team getting back together!

3) Give yourself time to integrate socially

On your return to the office, you may find yourself considerably more exhausted at the end of the day than you were pre-pandemic, this is because extended human interaction can be overwhelming after this much time has passed being socially distant. It’s totally normal to feel some social anxiety when thinking about going back to the office and interacting with a group of co-workers, experts say. Taking a gradual approach to socialising can help ease the transition, says Dr. Parmar (MD).

  4) Keep doing the new things you like  

When the pandemic first hit, many of us were suddenly gifted with one of the most precious things there is, time. For those on furlough it was a significant amount of free time, for those still working it was a bit more time in the mornings and evenings. During these periods many of us picked up routines and habits that were either enjoyable or beneficial to wellbeing. To ease the transition to the office, it is important to try to continue these new found routines, practising self-care can help you cope with the stress of change. For some people this may be taking the time to brew a cafetière of coffee and read a book for half an hour in the morning, which helps them start their day in a peaceful state of mind. For others it may be that light morning jog that got the blood flowing and released some endorphins leaving you ready to attack the day.

5) Be mindful of your body’s responses

Try not to put pressure on yourself to perform at peak-pandemic levels right away, getting back to normal, or to a new normal, will take some time. Be patient with yourself as you adjust. It is important to monitor how you are feeling over the first few days and weeks back in the office environment so that you can respond appropriately. If you experience feelings like heaviness in your chest, increased heart rate, persistent headaches or extreme fatigue, it’s important to take a step back and look at the causes. You can prioritise your wellbeing in many ways including switching off after work hours, planning for better sleep and creating space in your day to decompress or meditate.

6) Communicate your comfort level to management

You might find integrating back into an office setting scary for personal reasons, perhaps you are in an at-risk category or live with someone who is vulnerable. For many, communicating concerns about exposure to management can also be a daunting prospect as you want to make a positive return and don’t want to negatively impact how you are perceived in your career. However, your wellbeing has to be the priority and protecting this will benefit your company as well. Dr. Saad suggests to ‘State your desire and come up with a plan that would work for your boss, show them how it will benefit your job to have these needs met.’ For example, that you will be more efficient and productive without having to commute (you just then have to back it up!).

7) Set boundaries with management and colleagues

The pandemic has affected everyone in different ways and to different extents, while competent management teams will check in with every staff member before returning to the office, it is important that you proactively set the boundaries you are comfortable with so you don’t feel overwhelmed or at risk. This hugely transitional period for many companies is also a good opportunity to put forward requests that protect your wellbeing in the long run, keeping some of the things that were working for you over lockdown. You could suggest a hybrid working approach which would allow some time working from home when needed each week. If this is something you know your boss certainly wouldn’t allow then it’s perhaps a moment in time to ask yourself how important that flexibility is to you! In a survey of 1000 by Envoy, 29% of workers value the flexibility of remote work so much that they’ll quit their jobs if their employers insist on a full return to the office.

As more people get vaccinated, employers are beginning to bring workers back to the office after more than a year of working from home. The transition likely won’t be easy, though, and many workers are afraid they’ll lose certain perks and be less safe if they shift away from remote work.

 

If you are in the group that is really dreading a full return to the office, consider talking to your boss about a hybrid approach where you can benefit from working remotely for at least some of the time. You wouldn’t be alone as 85% of remote workers are now looking for this approach and 40% of employers are set to embrace this approach by 2023.

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