Prior to a global pandemic ravaging the world, working from home wasn’t something that was ever on my radar personally. I had been an in-office employee since graduating from college in 2014, and I was content to stay that way.
Then, everything changed.
Fortunately for me when March 2020 hit I worked in a position and for a company that allowed our entire workforce to work remotely.
I’ve been reflecting lately on the fear and unknown that engulfed and infected everything we did back then. I was sent home on a Friday in early March by my company. They told me I was part of the “pilot program” to see if working from home was a feasible option on a large scale before sending everyone home.
By the following Monday they were sending EVERYONE home, pack up your workstation and leave. That is how quickly things changed.
15 months later, things are changing again.
Businesses are opening back up. Life is easing back into normalcy. Socializing is back on.
It’s exciting and strange.
We all got used to that socially distanced life, firstly because we had to. I did not know for 15 months when/if we were going back to the office or when I would see the faces of my coworkers in real life vs. a zoom meeting.
And a part of me (and many other people) grew to prefer working from home. Let’s face it, there are a lot of pros.
Work from home pros:
–Not having to get ready for work
–No commute – having hours back in your day depending on how far you used to be to the office
–Flexibility to work from different locations
–Cook yourself a fancy lunch at home vs. sad microwave leftovers in the office
–You can do laundry while you work (this one is my favorite)
–Not having to drive to work in inclement weather (no maybe this one is my favorite, it’s a tie)
–Fewer call-offs – there were a few days during the past 15 months that I felt sick, blah, etc that I was able to work on my laptop in my bed. Had I been in the office I would have needed PTO
And because of these reasons, companies are adopting flexible working schedules, partial remote workforces and more.
There are also pros to going back to the office.
The in-office experience can breed collaboration, creativity, and community in a workforce. The connection of in-person is challenging to recreate, and many are still (perhaps reluctantly) in need of this for a fully productive workplace. It also can be positive for your mental health, to get up, get dressed and get moving back into a routine that involves working with others face-to-face.
For many of these reasons, companies have decided that the time has come for us to start heading back. I personally have an official return to work date in July. The sand is trickling down the hourglass of my time working from home and I have a lot of anxiety and excitement about returning to the office. As many of us do.
Below are some suggestions to help make the transition as seamless as possible.
1. Speak with your manager.
Your manager is going to be your best resource for work-specific anxieties and accommodations. If your company is offering more flexible options now as far as being hybrid or even permanently working from home your manager will be the best person to listen and work through those options with you.
You can also let them know if you have any specific boundaries you feel you need to set back in the office. E.g you would like to ensure your workspace is at least 6 feet away from any other coworkers, you need to be home at a certain time, etc., Your manager may direct you to HR for more specific or personal accommodations that are not in their scope, but they’re a great first line of defense for addressing those burning questions that have been back on your mind the last few months.
2. Plan to spruce up your workspace.
I am 82% certain I have a box collecting dust at my parents (I’ve moved twice since being sent home from the office) with all of my old office supplies/desk accessories/work badge/etc.
Now is the perfect time to refresh those supplies and plan to make your in-office workspace a welcoming environment. Print out some new pictures of loved ones and pets to post on your workspace. Maybe even bring a plant in to add some greenery to your space!
Make it feel comforting, personal and relaxing to make for a smoother transition from your home environment. We also happen to have a guide chocked full of office supplies and accessories at the link below for you to check out.
3. Revamp your wardrobe.
I don’t know about you but I have been living and working in a pink bathrobe for the past 15 months.
Returning to the office is a perfect excuse to go on a mini shopping spree to get pieces that will make you feel professional and show that you are putting your best foot forward. It also gives you something to feel confident and excited about as you tackle the nerves of those first few in-person presentations.
4. Establish a better sleep schedule.
Gone are the days of rolling out of bed at 7:59 to log into your computer and begin your 8:00 AM shift. You are going to need to plan to get ready and account for a commute in your life. This will likely mean you are going to need to hit the hay earlier to ensure you are getting enough beauty rest. Some best sleep hygiene practices include:
–Going to bed at the same time every night.
–Make sure your bedroom is dark, quiet, relaxing and at a comfortable temperature.
–Use your bed ONLY to sleep.
–Shut down your screens (cell phone, laptop, iPad, television) an hour before bedtime. Using blue light-eliminating glasses can also help.
–Avoid large meals, caffeine and alcohol before bedtime.
–Move your body – studies show getting exercise improves sleep. The sleep tracker on my Apple Watch seems to agree I sleep 20% better at night when I get a good workout in that day.
5. Focus on your mental health.
Going back to the office after being away for so long is going to stir up a lot of anxiety. It is super important that you take care of your mental health – meditate, talk to your therapist if you have one. Have a nice routine in the office and perhaps incorporate work a lunch break walk into your schedule.
Make sure to re-establish the healthy/stress relief tactics you had in place when this was the norm. If you don’t already have a gratitude journal I highly recommend starting one.
As nerve-wracking as going back to the office may be, there is a huge part of me that is really excited to see all of my coworkers and connect again in person.
I may not be able to give them the bear hug I would like to due to social distancing, I may not be able to see their smile behind a mask, but I am very much looking forward to not seeing people through a screen.
I’m also excited to be able to swing by someone’s desk to resolve something vs. it turning into a 30 minute Microsoft Teams meeting.
There are things to look forward to again.
Try to think about what those experiences are for you, and focus on them as you make this transition.
Take a deep breath, you can DO this!