Returning to the office after the COVID-19 pandemic is a sure sign that normalcy is on its way back. If you’re planning to return to work, you might be feeling a bit anxious about the adjustment period and how to return to the office. And if you were hired after the pandemic started, you might be working in an office and meeting your coworkers face-to-face for the first time.
That return-to-work anxiety is real — in fact, a recent survey found that 66% of employees are worried about setting foot back in their physical office space. To help ease the transition, read on for our top tips to return to work.
While working from home, you likely adapted to — and learned to thrive in — nontraditional workspaces. When you return to the office, look for ways to make yourself comfortable and “at home” as much as possible.
You might bring a lumbar support pillow or chair cushion from home. Bring noise-canceling headphones to block out the office noise and minimize interruptions. If anything else enhanced your productivity while working from home — such as new filing cabinets, a desk calendar, or a new keyboard — bring those, too. Or brighten up your workspace with new photos or drawings your kids created during quarantine.
Now that you’re back to the office, your morning routine will be more hectic. Set an earlier alarm so you have enough time to get ready. To save time, plan your outfits the night before. It will also help to make a list of any personal errands, workouts, or tasks you need to accomplish. A list keeps those tasks in the front of your mind and makes them more manageable.
Limited in-person encounters have us all feeling a little more anxious about social interactions. It’s normal to feel a little unnerved about seeing your coworkers in person instead of over Zoom calls.
Be patient with yourself and accept this feeling as a normal human emotion under the circumstances. Gradually ease yourself back into socializing with in-person meetings to connect with your team. As more time passes, your comfort level will gradually return. If you haven’t met your coworkers before, ask your direct manager to arrange a meet-and-greet or team-building exercise with the rest of your department.
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Find out if you can follow a hybrid schedule, at least in the beginning, allowing you to work from home on certain days and in the office on other days. Since so many workers have thrived in remote work, companies are likely to be receptive to this request.
A recent survey found that 60% of executives are planning to raise spending on hybrid working tools that support virtual collaboration — which means hybrid work schedules could continue well into the future.
Returning to the office might spike your stress levels, so make sure you recommit to taking care of your physical and mental health needs. Make sure you’re getting adequate amounts of rest. Carve out time to unwind after work using mindfulness techniques such as yoga, meditation, and journaling. If you feel comfortable, use the return to the office as a chance to enjoy some of the in-person perks you may have been missing — a chance to use the office gym, for example, or a brisk walk outdoors during lunch break with a colleague.
As you prepare to return to the office, give yourself time to reflect on the past year. It’s normal to feel anxious about returning to the office. Prioritize your mental and physical well-being, and give yourself plenty of time to adjust to office life.