The time has finally come, we’re going back to the office, well partially, depending on who you may work for. Yes, employers are now fighting to have their employees back in the office after more than two years of being remote and working from home due to the pandemic.
Earlier this year, corporate banks and financial big leagues on Wall Street caused major headlines as one after the other announced that they will be requiring employees to return back to the office five days a week CNN reported.
The aftermath quickly spilled over to other sectors and companies now looking to devise plans and new policies in which they can see employees spend at least a majority of the work week in the office.
Despite the efforts and schemes luring workers back to the office, around 61% of American workers who currently work from home are not looking to return to the office full-time in the near future. Given the opportunity, roughly six-in-ten workers who claim their job can be done from home are working all the time, or most of the time from home, a Pew Research study revealed.
The pandemic, working remotely, and the tight labor market have now given employees the power to be more demanding in their needs and job-related benefits.
A study by WFH Research found that 49% of workers who have been urged to return to the office are showing up for the full five-day workweek. Those in positions where it’s compulsory to attend in-office work two to three days per week are seeing higher attendance, with 84% and 81%, respectively showing up to the office.
It’s been a tug and pull for many employers and their staff, especially in companies that are requesting a majority of their staff to return to the office full-time after enjoying work-from-home benefits the last few years.
Whether you’ve been summoned by your manager or HR to return to the office full time, perhaps partially, it can be a daunting and tumultuous experience to adjust to a new working environment after all this time.
A lot has changed since the last time you stepped into your cubicle, or attended an in-person meeting – so have your colleagues and the people you work with.
To help prepare and adjust yourself, here’s a look at five things you can do that will help your return to the office feel a bit more stress-free.
Understand the return-to-office protocols
While a lot of companies have requested their employees to return to the office more full-time, not all of them are following the same regime. A week, or even a few days before your return, make sure you have read and understood the new office protocols and policies.
Yes, employers may have changed some things in regards to office policies, with some ranging from attire, lunch breaks, attendance, and participation, to in-office perks and benefits.
Before your return, make sure to inform yourself of all the basics and the requirements. If you’re unsure about something, like many of your colleagues, make a thing of asking, or bringing something up in a pre-return briefing.
Remember that a lot of your stress and frustrations of returning to the office are shared among most of your colleagues, so it’s not just you. See how you can lend a helping hand to newcomers, or employees who are having a hard time coping with the sudden return.
Although office rules and regulations could have changed since the early months of the pandemic, it’s good to be clued up about the new norms you might encounter during your first few days in the office.
Working from home has taught us how to set boundaries between our personal and professional lives, especially for working parents during the early months of the pandemic who had to juggle both their parenting and work roles at the same time – establish boundaries, right from the start.
Seeing as you might now end up having to share an office, or even a desk with someone else, you might need to establish your grounds right from the start.
For those of us who got used to being in our own home office, and having to get things done on our terms, that’s now all changing. Being back in the office means you will need to spend a lot of your energy physically working with people, and being more hands-on during meetings and projects.
Remember to be mindful of others, some people are excited to return to the office, or be at work again every day. See how you can reconnect with your co-workers over a coffee or lunch date, but be clear with your intentions as well.
We’re not saying to completely shut out your colleagues and build a hypothetical wall between you and your co-workers. Rather make sure they know what they can expect from you, and what you’re expecting from them. While it’s fun to be back in the workspace, it’s still a professional environment.
Be easy on yourself
A lot of us may be stressed, or feeling a bit anxious when it comes to returning to work, especially after so many years of working from home, or on a hybrid basis.
So much has changed during the last few years, and in some cases, you might have noticed new employees coming onboard and some co-workers changing company roles.
Yes, it’s scary to think the people you once worked with and collaborated on ideas with won’t be waiting for you when you go back, nor will the office be the same, if at all anything like it was when you left.
For this, we suggest that you be more compassionate to yourself, rather than focusing on the bad sides of everything. Consider how the return could perhaps be the change in your routine that you were looking for.
If you’re someone who struggles to adapt to new environments or sudden change, talk to a colleague or your partner. If you’re not sure how to address issues with people or management in person, read up on how to become more comfortable with yourself and other people in a social and professional environment.
There are a lot of us that share the same anxiety-induced experience when it comes to going back to the office. Although it’s not an easy move for some of us, it’s worth considering how this change might impact the work you do, and how well you can perform when working alongside other people.
Get going on a new routine
Now that your office isn’t down the hall from your bedroom anymore, you might want to get going on creating and setting up a new routine for yourself.
From getting ready in the morning to having breakfast, to planning your commute and checking traffic reports, to the coffee shop you’re looking to stop at just before you head up to the office – it’s advised to plan your routine.
Seeing as some companies might have increased or decreased their employee capacity over the last few years, there’s a good chance they also moved their offices somewhere new. This could impact the route you will be taking every day to and from work. Check to see if any trains, metros, or buses follow the route, or will you need to commute by yourself.
Now that the office is further away, you may need to calculate your traveling time, and what time you leave the house, or have breakfast will all be impacted by the recent changes you’ve encountered.
Your routine will soon be thrown upside down, completely. And if that’s not something you tend to enjoy, start planning, rather than throwing yourself into the deep end.
Be realistic with yourself
The pandemic and working from home changed a lot of the way we think and do things. In terms of work, a lot of our expectations have also changed over time, and we’ve come to terms with the new norms of working and living while having to deal with ensuing lockdowns and restrictions.
Now that everything has returned to normal, and the pandemic is starting to wane, we need to be realistic with our expectations and goals, especially if we want to make a success of working in the office.
If you notice that your commute is going to take a bit longer each morning, you need to be realistic on how to plan properly to ensure you arrive on time. If the company is looking to improve in-house social efforts, see how it’s possible to foster new relationships with your co-workers, and how it could help you settle back into a new routine.
Some things may seem taboo, while other topics of conversation will be thoroughly enjoyed throughout the office. It will take some time to get into the swing of things, but ensure you have a realistic approach to how this new change and–office experience will impact your professional career, and help you advance your skills.
A Final Thought
A lot of us have dreaded the day we will have to return to the office. While not everyone’s return back to reality may look the same, we still all share the same experience, and a lot of us have dealt with the sudden change in lifestyle and working conditions differently.
Be mindful of those who are excited to return to the office, and keep in mind that everyone dealt with the pandemic differently, whether it’s losing someone they cared for, or having varying opinions on mandatory vaccines.
The office can be a refreshing place where new ideas can be garnered, and relationships fostered. Don’t think of it as the place you’ve once dreaded before the pandemic, rather encourage yourself to feel inspired, and excited to have a bit of change to your routine, while at the same time setting new boundaries, and advancing your career.