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Adjusting to the return to the office

As we start the new year, for a lot of us, this means that businesses will be reopening and we will be returning to working from the office. This transition will look different for every company, job, and person, but one thing is certain; both managers and employees have a role to play in creating a mentally healthy workplace.

But what can you, personally, do to ease yourself into the transition and adjust to the return to the office?

Set time aside to get organised

Set up your workspace

On your first day back at work you need to get yourself re-situated and organized. Take some time to tidy up your space, get your coffee and some water, set up your computer and stationery, then log in to Slack or Zoom.

Check-in with your team

Remember to also set aside a few minutes to say hello and check-in with your team or co-workers. The simple act of communicating with your team will help to put you back into a working mindset, and for many people, the connection is a mood booster.

Make a plan

To help you get back into the work mindset, identify what tasks absolutely must get done during the day and week, then rank them in order of importance. Keep this list visible throughout the entire day so you can refer to it as needed. When you have a plan for your workday, it’s much easier to get back on track and to keep from being overwhelmed by the number of emails waiting for you.

Speaking of, put checking your emails as its own task on that plan, and don’t underestimate how long it will take. Having a strategy to tackle emails will help you get through your inbox with a little less stress and probably save you some time.

Start by asking your manager if they’re aware of anything that requires your immediate attention (keep in mind they may have been on holidays just like you, so the answer may be no) then start by skimming through your inbox just by looking at the subject lines and who it’s from. Use the star or flag function to categorize messages that need to be responded to and that you need to read. Once you’ve gone through your messages, filter them by category and work through them one category at a time. By focusing on one type of message, you’ll be able to get through them quicker and maintain your focus.

Prioritise mental health

It’s okay to feel anxious or uncertain about returning to the workplace. Or perhaps you have enjoyed the greater freedoms and work-life balance of remote working and feel sad about losing these benefits. Take note of your feelings, understand them, and accept them. Once you accept how you are feeling right now, consider how you can move your mindset forward – and what changes you can implement to help prepare yourself mentally for your return to the workplace. For example, do you need to rebook children into before school care, plan your commute or find a new time for your daily walk? Or do you need to remind yourself that it’s fine to feel uncomfortable with change at first and that learning to adapt to change at work can take time?

Assess your working style

The working style you’ve adopted in the past two years may not work as well in the office as it has at home, so take some time to understand if the post-COVID-19 workplace will suit your working style.

Most employers are offering a slow transition back to the workplace. There is an understanding that those employees who have enjoyed working from home need to shift their mindset back into office-based working, which can take time.

Many employers are also implementing a hybrid working model, where staff work some days in the office and others from home. For many employees, this offers the ideal transition as it provides the flexibility to balance office and home working, which allows you to slowly and steady reacclimate with the office.

Just remember, you’re unlikely to see the same level of pre-pandemic face-to-face contact at work, with in-person meetings and conversations limited due to staggered start and finish times and continuing physical distancing measures. So, if you are someone who requires in-person interactions to perform at your best, adapt your working style now so that your motivation, energy and output still remain high in today’s office environment. 

Enjoy the chance to reconnect

We all know what we’ve enjoyed about not working in the office but take a moment to consider what you have missed about office life. Perhaps, for example, you’ve missed your favourite coffee shop, meeting a friend for lunch, casual conversations with colleagues or celebrating team successes after work. Re-establishing such elements of your former office life will help you feel comfortable back in the workplace and restore a sense of normality to your working week.