The past two years have been turbulent for everyone’s working life. The pandemic caused many people to become redundant and a great majority of companies around the world had to move to remote working. As challenging as it can be to adapt your bedroom for working from home it has its benefits as well. The biggest one of them being the ability to roll out of bed, get dressed and clock in at work within minutes. None of the annoying traffic while commuting.
Over the past year we’ve gotten so used to working from the comfort of our own homes that going back into the office can present a challenge for many. So how can you cope with the transition from working-from-home to being in the office?
1. Be Patient With Yourself
The shift to working remotely was sudden and harsh from a psychological stance for many. The lack of social contact and isolation was a negative experience for most people. What’s more, this sudden change was accompanied by great uncertainties, feelings of hopelessness, a loss of freedom and connection, and much grief of losing a loved one due to the virus.
Having to spend all day at home and losing the sense of structure also led some people to overwork themselves. This may have included picking up a new hobby with greater than achievable expectations, or struggling to focus on tasks you need to carry out.
In addition, everyone has had to go through disappointments – cancelled holidays, birthday parties over Zoom, not being able to be there for a loved one. We all had to make compromises and adjust our daily routines.
With such great changes over the last almost two years, moving back to our pre-pandemic lives will be a hard task. It’s important to acknowledge everything that you and everyone around you has been through and give yourself compassion. Our new daily lives don’t have to be fully like before and that’s okay.
2. Establish a New Daily Routine
While working from home most of us mastered the art of jumping out of bed and joining the Zoom meeting last second. The whole idea of having a morning routine and commuting to work seems like a distant memory.
Consider how you can readjust your current routine back to working from the office. Plan ahead and think of what time you have to wake up, how long it would take you to commute and take into account any delays you might run into.
Start getting back into a routine before you actually go back to the office to make the shift more subtle. Even if you still work from home, set your alarm and wake up at the time you normally would. Also start going to bed earlier and practice healthy sleep habits to fix your sleep schedule.
There could also be other layers of routine in your working day. For example, you might be working from the office only on certain days, or you might need to take a lateral flow test before you go into work. Make sure you have planned all those little daily routines in your schedule to avoid being late.
3. Set Clear Boundaries
Working remotely blurred the boundaries between work and personal life. When you have to work from your bedroom or kitchen, it can be very hard to separate home from work and vice versa. People can email you at any time, while you’re having dinner, while you’ve just clocked out and ready to relax… Boundaries get easily lost.
Moving back to working from the office gives you a chance to reset the divide between your work life and your personal life. You can set your availability hours and turn off emails after a certain hour or tell people your preferred way to be contacted.
Think about which kind of approach would be most beneficial for your work productivity and mental health and make sure to discuss that with your employer. If you think you work better from home you might be able to come up with a solution such as a hybrid approach, where you work from the office only on certain days.
4. Take Care of Your Mental Health
Feeling anxious before returning to the office is completely normal. As you’re exposed to more social interactions and settings you might feel overwhelmed or even burned out by the end of the day.
Remember to take care of your mental health and practice self-care routines as often as you can. If you have the time, you can try starting your day with some meditation or breathing exercises to ground yourself and calm your anxiety.
If you’re yet to go back to the office on an exact date for your return. This way you will have a concrete day to prepare for rather than experience uncertainty and a free-floating feeling of anxiety. Have an internal conversation about your feelings and which aspects of returning to the office are making you feel anxious. Is it the commute there and back? Is it the idea of being around other people again? Pinpointing exact thoughts that trigger your anxiety can give you a clearer idea of how to keep those feelings at bay.
You should also talk about your feelings with others. If you have people in the office who you’re particularly close with you can discuss your worries with them. Chances are they feel a similar way in which case you can offer each other support.
5. Be Mindful When Communicating With Others in the Office
Socialising is a big aspect of your office life, but it can also be a huge source of anxiety for many. After over a year of conversing only through chat rooms it’s normal to be worried about conversations being awkward. Start brushing up your small talk when you go to the shop or are out on a walk in the park.
Everyone has experienced the last year differently. Some people might be excited to be back in the office because of their home situation, while others might feel anxious or even dread it. If you’re struggling with returning to the office, you shouldn’t have to justify your feelings constantly. But in the same vein, you should make yourself heard and set your boundaries.
On the other hand, people looking forward to being in the office should also try to be compassionate. Ask your co-workers how they feel about being back in the office and respect their opinion.
As well as the mental state though, there is also the physical aspect of conversing. Some people may still feel a bit awkward about physical contact in the workplace, such as handshakes, hugs, etc. make sure you give your colleagues space and be mindful of their personal space.