With COVID restrictions largely lifted, many employers are starting to phase their employees back into the office. Are you ready? Returning to the office after being remote for so long is likely to create a bumpy transition period if you don’t prepare properly.
Don’t worry, though. You aren’t alone. The pandemic made remote working an amazingly common experience. One estimate suggested that about half of all paid work hours involved work-from-home activity at the height of the COVID lockdowns, from April to December 2020. Prior to the outbreak, that figure sat at 5%.
Meanwhile, companies are largely taking the return to the office in stages. One study showed that just 4% of companies are currently requiring all their employees to return to the office full time. Meanwhile, 45% of firms were setting policies that called for some staff members to switch to in-office work throughout the week.
Even if your employer takes a slow approach, you need to prepare for the change. The sooner you start reframing your schedule, the better off you’ll be. With that in mind, here are a few tips when returning to the office after being remote for so long:
Prepare for Your New Schedule
The rhythms of a workday change dramatically based on the setting. As you switch from a remote situation to one focused on the office, you’ll need to get accustomed to a new schedule. Here are some steps to take:
Reset Your Body Clock
Going into the office creates a new set of logistical concerns. As such, you’ll likely need to get up earlier and you might not return home until relatively late in the evening. At the same time, you’ll need to get used to a full eight hours at your desk. (They probably won’t let you bring your couch and jammies once you return to company property.)
Figure Out Transportation
With remote work, your commute involved a trip from your bed to the kitchen table. Now that you’re returning to the office, you’ll need to deal with a more complicated journey. Figure out your best way of getting to work and build the extra required time into your schedule.
Arrange Childcare and Other Details
You’ve built your recent life around the idea that you’d spend your days working at home. Now, you’ll be leaving the house for most of the day. As a result, you’ll have to reshape your lifestyle accordingly.
That means finding alternative ways to handle some of the responsibilities that will become impossible for you to do once you’ve returned to the office. Childcare represents the most glaring of these. However, you should review your current schedule and see if you need to make any other notable adjustments.
Create a Routine
Your routine is about to change dramatically. You’ll need to build in time for a commute and getting ready for work. (Yes, it’s probably time to resume daily showers.) Meanwhile, your new routine will impact everyone around you. Make sure you coordinate with others in your household.
Reconnect with Coworkers
Technology has greatly improved the ability to collaborate over distances. This upgrade to corporate infrastructures made the sudden spike in remote working possible, as companies closed their physical offices during the pandemic.
However, despite these improvements, you should prepare for a transition. Returning to the office presents a change in your collaborative process. Exchanging ideas over Slack and Zoom has a different feel than in-person conversations.
As such, make an effort to smooth the process. Look to connect with your coworkers. Start conversations with them. Plan social events. This way, you can jumpstart your ability to work together in closer physical proximity.
Develop a New Work/Life Balance
When you work at home, your work and home lives blend together. Have a few minutes before your next Zoom meeting? You can empty the dishwasher or throw in a load of laundry.
Many of these quick crossovers become impossible once you return to the office. Suddenly, those chores that you finished in stages during the day are waiting for you when you get home. This dynamic can contribute to the stress of returning to work.
On the other side of the spectrum, work still has the power to intrude on your time at home. You can’t take your laundry to the office, but your email and slack accounts remain active after the official quitting time. It’s easy to let work takeover even as the physical separation become more obvious.
Recognize these challenges as you head back to the office. You’ll need to renegotiate the equilibrium between work and the rest of your life. Be prepared for that process. And remember that a strong balance will provide the most success and happiness over the long haul.
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