For most people, return-to-office announcements result in mixed feelings. You may be excited about in-person brainstorm sessions or coffee runs with your colleagues. You may also be grappling with safety concerns or stress about your daily commute.
No matter where your emotions stand, if your company requires you to come in to the office, you can still make the most of your changing work environment.
“You’ve been working from home for almost two years now. Shifting back to the office is a huge adjustment,” says leadership advisor and mentor Rodney Mueller. “Think about those times when you’ve started new jobs and how the first week is the worst. Give yourself some time and space to adjust.”
Below, Mueller and health and wellness coach, Lynette Sprowls, share the best tips you can use to prepare yourself for a return to the office.
How to Make the Shift into the Office Easier on Yourself
As you prepare to go back to the office, there are several steps you can take to support the transition.
Start by keeping an open and honest dialogue with your employer, your family, and with yourself.
Express Your Needs
“Be honest with management about what your needs are, and they can help you find a solution,” explains Sprowls. “This could be improved technology or implementing a hybrid model where you are only in the office a couple of days a week.”
Be open with your spouse, partners, roommates, or children about the parts of the hybrid work week you’re struggling with, Sprowls adds. Allow them to feel like part of the solution — not part of the problem.
“When you ask people to help, they usually love to support you and become part of your cheerleading team.”
Catch up with Colleagues, without Sacrificing Productivity
If you’re concerned that chatty colleagues you haven’t seen in person since the start of the pandemic will impact your productivity, Sprowls suggests getting creative.
“Have group catch-up lunches, walk-and-talks, or share rides to work as time to catch up” so you aren’t spending your workday socializing, she advises.
Be sure you understand and respect your colleagues’ boundaries around work, too.
Let Multiple Things Be True
Be honest with yourself about your needs and preferences in your work environment.
Sometimes, they can feel contradictory…
For example, if you love working from home full-time, you can also enjoy your time back in the office.
To better understand your internal conflicts, Sprowls suggests asking yourself these questions:
- What would it take to make this experience better for me?
- How can I reframe this situation to develop a more positive outlook?
- What would make my day more pleasurable?
- What enriched my life when I was working from home full time and how can I bring some of that into the office?
- What enriches my life when I work in the office and how can I bring some of that to my home office environment?
- How do I need to be supported during the transition to in-office or hybrid?
- Who can I ask for that support?
Reframe Negative Emotions
Sprowls says, “Identify a specific emotion you’re feeling, then focus on reframing just that one emotion each day.”
Make Room for Self-Care
So often when we return to the office, we feel like we must go back into total performance mode and that it’s not okay to take breaks, go for a walk, or have a mid-morning espresso, Mueller adds.
“You’ll be happier and more productive if you prioritize taking care of yourself as you return to the office,” he says.
List 5 Things You Can Do
Mueller suggests creating a list of five things that would energize and emotionally nourish you as you return to the office.
“Maybe it’s refreshing your workspace with new art or a candle; perhaps it’s promising yourself to get out of the office for lunch each day or taking a walking break at some point,” Mueller says. “Anytime your routine shifts it’s important to update your self-care.”
Other Tips to Transition Back to the Office
Here are a few more universal tips to help you adjust when returning to the office.
- Set boundaries: It’s OK to have boundaries at the office. If you need to tell a teammate you don’t have time to chat, practice setting that boundary.
- Take regular breaks: You can increase your productivity by giving your mind time for rest and stretching your body while you’re at work. Taking a walk or getting coffee with a coworker can also give you time to invest in socializing without sacrificing the time you need for productivity.
- Make your space conducive to productivity: Practice what works for you. Could you use noise-reducing headphones? Do you prefer natural light? Maybe you just need to use the printer near your desk instead of trekking across the building to print something. Learn what triggers you to be productive at work.
- Get energized: When you take care of your mind and body, you’ll be better able to be productive. Eat healthy foods, work out before heading into the office, or have some supplements on hand to keep your energy from dropping throughout the day.
- Bring a piece of home with you: What is it about working at home you love? You might not be able to bring your kitchen, sweatpants, or furry friends to the office, but perhaps you can find something else from home to bring with you. A diffuser, noisemaker, or productivity playlist may help you get into the zone.
The Bottom Line
It can be challenging to go back to the office when you’ve been working remotely. But tuning into your needs and making a conscious effort to take care of yourself can help you feel happier and improve your productivity.
Going into the office can also provide you with a great opportunity to advance your career, make more connections, and be open to more opportunities. Try to see the best in this transition and leverage opportunities where you can.
Looking for personalized guidance to achieve your professional goals? See how one of our Arootah Career Coaches can support you.