After working from home for an extended period of time or coming back from parental leave, the thought of going back to the office can be a bit nerve-wracking. After all, things may have changed at the office while you were gone. Additionally, at-home routines will have to change, and caregiving responsibilities will have to shift to someone else.
But if you were able to work successfully on-site in the past, you’ll certainly be able to do it again. All it takes is a bit of positivity and planning in advance. To help, here are five ways you can transition back to the office setting with ease.
Talk to your manager about any concerns you have. Maybe you can start out working on-site only a few days per week, at least for the first month. Working every other day at home will help you get used to the fact that you have to pack a lunch again, get your wardrobe ready, and adhere to caregiving responsibilities. The chances are that other people have the same concerns, and you may be surprised as to how flexible your employer can be if you just ask. Just make sure you have a sturdy laptop bag and remember to take your laptop to and from work with you.
If you’ve been away from the office for a while, you may find that it looks completely foreign to you when you go back. Chances are it needs a bit of cleaning as well. Even if you have cleaning staff on-site, they may not have dusted your desk or done anything with that dirty coffee mug you left behind. On your first day back on-site, try to get in early and set up your workspace like it’s brand new. Start by removing everything from your desk, dusting it, and then putting only what you need back. Starting fresh with a clean slate can clear the clutter and set yourself up for success without distractions from the past. You may even want to assess the ergonomics of your workspace while you’re at it. This could be a good time to ask for a standing desk or a new chair to help you be more comfortable leaving your home workspace.
You deserve some new work clothes now and then, especially if you have spent the past year in comfy casual clothes that aren’t necessarily office-friendly. Depending on your workplace, you might find that your employer has even relaxed the dress code, so be sure to ask around to see whether anything has changed in that regard. Then, treat yourself to some new office attire that’s not only stylish but comfortable. Many designers are adding features like elastic waistbands and ultra-comfortable fabrics to corporate apparel to make it more comfortable as employees come back to the office.
Routines make everything easier: The only thing difficult about routines is sticking to them. While you may have had a set routine when working from home, you’ll certainly want to revisit that routine and adjust it as necessary before going back to the office. You’ll have to account for traffic, dropping kids or dogs off at daycare, getting dressed and showered in the morning instead of whenever you feel like it during the day, etc. Without a routine, your transition back to the office will be a hectic one. Don’t forget to carve some “me time” into that routine. A stop at the gym after work, for example, is a great way to wind down from the workday and clear your mind before heading home. Don’t forget to pack a gym bag or backpack and keep it in your trunk, so you don’t forget it in the morning.
Whether for safety reasons or budgeting reasons, employers may have chosen to get rid of certain perks or habits. For example, the communal coffee maker or water cooler might not be there anymore, meaning you’ll have to bring your own water and coffee with you to work. Also, handshakes might now be fist bumps, and you may have to wear a face mask when close to other co-workers. Try not to let the unexpected interfere with your productivity, though. Acknowledging that things are likely to be different and realizing that you’ll quickly adjust will help you focus on success instead of harping on any changes you didn’t see coming.
Besides the tips mentioned here, staying positive and focusing on what you like about working in the office—such as camaraderie with co-workers and fewer personal distractions—will surely help make your transition a successful one.