8 Easy Ways to Make Your Return to Office a Smooth One

8 Easy Ways to Make Your Return to Office a Smooth One

There’s no question the future of work is changing. With 46% of employees working from home five or more days a week during the COVID-19 pandemic, companies and workers alike are now considering how and where to work as we slowly step back into the world.

As more and more Americans get vaccinated, many employers are making the decision to bring their workers back to the office in some capacity. In fact, according to a recent Gartner survey of human resource leaders, 69% of companies plan to reopen offices by the end of 2021. But even with buildings open, Gartner predicts nearly half of workers will continue to work remotely at least part of the time.

Odds are you’ve already heard something about your company’s return-to-the-office plans, and whether you’ll be reporting in person every day or just a few days a week, the change will probably take some getting used to.

To help, we’ve put together these tips to ease the transition.

1. Raid your closet.

Has it been a while since you tried on your work pants? No judgment here, but now’s the time to take a look at your office wardrobe, see what fits, what doesn’t, and what items you may be missing, then fill in the gaps. The last thing you want to do is wait until the morning of, only to find you have nothing to wear.

2. Get back into a routine.

With no commute, your mornings may have looked something like this: roll out of bed, sit at your desk, start working. Now you’ll need to get back into the habit of getting completely ready and packed for a full day away from home. Not to mention adjusting to a commute.

Start following your workday routine at least a week before heading back, including settling into regular bed and wake-up times, dressing in work-appropriate attire, and eating meals on a schedule that will fit your workday.

3. Set up your workspace.

Some companies may be allowing workers to come in early to set up their desks, but if not, remember that on your first day back, you’ll need more than just your laptop. Notebooks, writing utensils, reference materials, your keyboard, mouse—gather it all the night before, then check and double-check you have everything you need.

And, if you’ll be working a hybrid schedule, consider making a few checklists until you get into the habit of switching back and forth. Make one for the office for any must-haves you’ll want at home for remote days and one for home to make sure you don’t forget anything on your in-person days.

4. Do a practice run.

It’s probably been a while since you made the trek to the office during the morning rush, so if you’re able, give it a go a few days before your first day back. Make a note of how long it takes and plan accordingly for your new routine.

5. Prepare for awkwardness.

No matter how much we prepare, those first interactions with coworkers will probably be a little awkward for everyone. Still, with a bit of forethought, you can minimize the effect.

Think through what you’ll say and do in situations such as:

  • A coworker reaches out to shake hands.
  • A work-friend comes in for a hug.
  • Someone enters your workspace.
  • A coworker invites you to lunch.

It’s likely everyone will have different comfort levels with those workplace interactions that seemed so normal before the pandemic, so determining your personal boundaries and planning for these instances will give you a leg up and help your coworkers understand the best way to interact with you.

6. Manage distractions.

For some—especially those with young children at home—the office might offer a welcome break from never-ending interruptions, but if you’ve gotten used to quiet days at home alone, the return to a bustling work environment could mean just the opposite.

Set yourself up for success with whatever you’ll need to tune out the distractions, such as noise-canceling headphones and a signal to let your coworkers know when you’re trying to focus.

7. Accentuate the positive.

If going back to the office fills you with dread, try to adjust your mindset to focus on the good things. You’ll now have a stronger boundary between work and home, time on the commute to decompress, and the chance to renew bonds with your fellow coworkers in ways that video calls and chats just couldn’t do.

8. Give yourself grace.

In the end, change is hard, and we’ve all gotten used to doing things differently over the past year. So give yourself time to adjust to this “new” way of work, and don’t be too hard on yourself if you still feel off after a while.

Everyone reacts to change in different ways and will need varying amounts of time to adjust, but eventually, office life will feel normal again, and you’ll look back with pride at your resiliency.

Good luck, and we hope you have a great first day.

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