6 Ways to Ease Your Return to the Office

You’ll often hear people telling others to jump straight into a body of water if it’s a little cold. It’s best to get the transition over with quickly, they’ll say. However, you also run the risk of putting your body into shock, which can be dangerous and even life-threatening.

For many, jumping right back into their former office routine is much like jumping into a cold lake. While Covid-19 vaccines have allowed life to return to “somewhat normal,” many employees are struggling. Making the switch back to what work life looked like prior to the pandemic has been harder than expected. If you’re heading back to the office soon, here are some suggestions for avoiding any mental or emotional shock.

1. Start With Hybrid Work

Instead of plunging immediately into full-time office work, ask your employer whether you might start off with a hybrid schedule. A hybrid approach means you’d spend part of your week at home and the rest at the office. Going to the office twice a week will be easier to get used to than switching right back to an eight-hour shift every weekday.

Many companies are going so far as to extend hybrid work solutions to their employees as a permanent arrangement. Several studies conducted during the pandemic showed that remote workers could be just as productive as in-office ones, if not more so. While office space is great for collaboration and communication, it’s also an expensive line item. Don’t be surprised if you’re able — or perhaps even required — to move back and forth.

If you want to get accustomed to commuting to the office every day, talk with your boss about starting with half days. Just a few hours in the office will help you get used to your commute and morning routine little by little. Complete the tasks you don’t finish in your half days when you’re back in your home office.

2. Adjust Your Routine

When working from home with a flexible schedule, it’s easy to let yourself fall out of a routine. You can get away with sleeping in a little late and working in your pajamas as long as you’re meeting all your deadlines. However, a return to the office means a return to a more structured schedule. Do yourself a favor and start making those adjustments beforehand.

Begin by getting up every morning as if you’re getting ready to go to the office. Set your alarm for the same time and respond to it every morning. Whether you’re going to the office or not, your mind and body will be prepared. Adjusting your internal clock gradually will make it a lot easier for you than attempting to get up early on day one.

If you got used to daily exercise while working from home, get creative to keep that in your routine. Maybe you can bike to work instead of driving. If you’re worried about showing up sweaty, consider an electric cruiser bike. This adds a bit of exercise to your morning to get you energized on your way to the office.

3. Manage Expectations

After a long hiatus from the office, you might not hit the ground running upon your return. You may have to get used to different working conditions than what you’ve experienced this past year. That makes it important to manage your expectations about returning to the office.

Recognize that your productivity might not be at its best that first week back. Cut yourself some slack if it takes you longer to complete your usual tasks. You’re getting reaccustomed to your former schedule, workspace, and maybe even dress code. If you go easy on yourself, you should be back up to speed before you know it.

You can get burned out quickly if you return to office life full throttle. To prevent this, take advantage of the time you do spend away from the office. Leave work at work, and take the weekend to recover so each week in the office is better than the last. Set goals that encourage a healthy work-life balance to lessen the impact of resuming a more demanding pace.

4. Monitor Your Mental Health

When Covid-19 took center stage in 2020, a heightened emphasis on mental health wasn’t far behind. Spending day after day sheltered in place without seeing loved ones or attending events did a number on many of us. Additional mental health concerns can crop up as we re-engage socially or venture out in public while balancing social distancing concerns.

Keep an eye on your mental health when returning to the office. Don’t overdo it your first week back. If a return to the office makes you feel extra stressed, anxious, or depressed, speak with your supervisor about possible solutions. Chances are good that your employer expanded the benefits it offers stressed-out employees in the past year.

Managing stress is an important part of maintaining mental health. More than anything, being back in the office can place extra pressure on your work performance. Look for signs of stress in its earliest stages, before it becomes a problem. Make adjustments to your daily schedule before you’re overwhelmed.

5. Don’t Isolate

If you shut people out, you’ll feel just as alone in the office as you did during the peak of shelter-in-place mandates. Getting involved at the office will make the transition much easier — and a lot more fun, too. You’ll also see your productivity improve as you develop friendships and settle more comfortably into an office routine.

Make a point of attending company events, whether it be a welcome-back party or a team luncheon. Reconnect with co-workers and introduce yourself to new faces. Before long, you’ll feel right at home in the office once again.

6. Make Physical Health a Priority

Even though businesses are starting to reopen, don’t throw caution to the wind just yet. Not everyone has received their Covid-19 vaccinations. Many are still unprotected, and all should be cautious about spreading the virus. You’ll be doing yourself and everyone around you a favor by remaining health-conscious during your initial return.

The last thing you want is another health-related emergency forcing you to work remotely again just as you were getting reacclimated to office life. Pay attention to safety guidelines set by your company and your city. Even as vaccines roll out and case numbers decline, abide by all of the health guidelines as a common-sense practice. Wash your hands, cover your sneezes, etc.

Above all, don’t allow yourself to get too worked up. Everyone else is probably nervous, too, so the return to a shared work environment should be marked by a lot of patience and grace. Do what you can to ease your concerns so you can help others do the same.

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