Ten Tips for Adjusting to Workdays in the Office After a Year of Remote Work
You might be feeling an intense case of the “back-to-school butterflies” when you think of returning back to the office after a year of remote work. But unlike a long, lazy childhood summer, it has been a tumultuous year filled with a great deal of change and upheaval. Rest assured, it’s natural to have a range of emotions toward the shift, while feeling conflicted about the myriad of decision points that may emerge as a result! To help you out, here are ten tips to ease back into in-office work life!
1. Expect and accept stress
Change is hard for everyone, and accepting that the change you are about to experience will cause stress can help you understand how to navigate it successfully. Practicing stress relief behaviors at home that you can use in the office, like making a cup of tea or doing a breathing exercise, can be a great tool to deal with moments that feel a little overwhelming once you’re back in the office.
2. Identify daily routines you CAN control
You may find yourself suddenly experiencing volatile elements such as unexpected traffic delays on commutes, long lunch lines, and unpredictable social encounters that weren’t part of your work from home routine. To counteract that volatility, identify simple routines that can help you stay grounded during these moments, like having a favorite podcast or playlist at the ready to listen to while you wait!
3. Do your homework
Remember that a new and complex environment like going back to the office doesn’t have to be unsettling. Prepare by finding reliable and consistent sources to turn to for guidance. These may be senior individuals within your organization who can offer you advice, or it may take the form of online research on best in-office work practices. You should also make sure to carefully read any updates you company leaders share with you in advance of returning to make sure you’re not missing any important changes.
4. Identify the positive
Take a retrospective look at your time in the office and think about what you missed most about your workplace. Which of those things remain and how can you embrace them? Choices like going to a special local lunch spot or taking a coffee run with a favorite coworker can help you adjust into a new rhythm and ignite some excitement for your new schedule.
5. Find support within your team
This is a difficult transition for everyone. Seek out individuals within your company who would be willing to build a supportive relationship in which you talk openly (but constructively) about the challenges you are facing and brainstorm solutions. These people will understand your unique situation and can help give advice that’s unique to your current role.
6. Create personal reflection checkpoints
Check in with yourself and assess how you are managing this shift. Reflect on how your metacognition – your “how” of thinking – has shifted as a result of the transition and accompanying stress due to the pandemic. By setting up specific times to check in with yourself, you will also mitigate the impact of delayed feedback, a stress-inducing factor. To hold yourself accountable, try sending yourself a calendar invite or making a note in your planner when you can set aside some time for introspection.
7. Be patient with yourself
Don’t expect yourself to jump back into the in-office rythm immediately, and don’t be down on yourself if you struggle a little at first. You may need to take a longer lunch break every once in a while or wear an extra comfy outfit to help bridge the transition from your work from home routine, and that’s perfectly fine! Keep in mind that everyone is experiencing this transition right alongside you.
8. Ask for help and be helpful
Just because you might be going back to an office that feels familiar, doesn’t mean that everything is back to normal. Your team dynamics and professional expectations have undoubtedly changed, and there’s no shame in asking for help trying to navigate the new (new) normal. Make sure to reach out to family and friends to see how they’re handling their transitions, too!
9. Celebrate your resiliency
We have all undoubtedly gained so much metacognitive resilience throughout this pandemic, and it’s something we should all take a moment to acknowledge. After over a year of the ups and downs of the pandemic, you’ve learned to expect the unexpected and take new information as it comes. Give yourself credit for that cognitive growth, and remind yourself that there’s probably nothing that’s going to pop up in your inbox that’s crazier or more unexpected than what we’ve dealt with this past year!
10. Re-evaluate your goals
If you had goals that you set aside because of the pandemic and your extended work from home, now is time to re-evaluate your goals for yourself and get back on track. It could be something as simple as being more punctual or something as big as finally getting the corner office, but setting and writing down fresh goals will help to reignite your in-office motivation!
Akhila Satish is the CEO of Meseekna, where her team focuses on designing and deploying validated simulation technology to measure and improve metacognition, or “how” people make decisions. Meseekna’s products include the Decision Making Performance Index, a novel, scalable approach to assessing decision making styles for individual growth and organizational success, featured in Forbes, and ChoiceIQ, a career guidance and stress management app, featured as a Fast Company World Changing Idea 2021.
Akhila’s unique background spans entrepreneurship, venture capital and research science, and she holds degrees in neuroscience, biotechnology, and business. Her research has been published in scientific journals Nature and Human Genomics and her expertise on metacognition, science and talent management has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, Entrepreneur, CNBC, Fortune, and Business Insider.