Seven Tips for Returning to the Office
Many workers will be returning to their offices after a prolonged period of working from home. The transition back to the work environment may well present its own challenges. This does not just mean the move from slippers to high heels or from sloppy dressing gown to shirt and tie. Apparently, it takes about 21 days for a new habit to become your normal behaviour. So, you have probably spent over 550 alone and working remotely and forming habits that have no place in a busy workplace! An easing back into the old office ways might be needed. Here are some tips to a smooth changeover from the home office to the work office.
Dress for the job you want
It seems the job you wanted during the pandemic was a mix of slovenly dressed bed tester and sporty styled loungewear model. It’s time to dust off the smart casual office gear. In reality, smart casual means a bigger ratio of smart to a smaller helping of casual. Some of your clothes may have also suffered shrinkage during the pandemic. One of the lesser-known side effects of quarantine! Buy a few new pieces and practise walking up and down the kitchen in heels. Unless you’re a guy, in which case you have to stop doing that!
The cat isn’t here. You are talking to yourself!
Many people stuck at home during the pandemic reported the worrying trend of talking to themselves. Those with pets could disguise the self-narration of their workday tasks by prefacing each sentence with ‘Hey mutt’ or ending with ‘isn’t that right pussy?’. Domestic animals aside, you were still talking to yourself! Pets are predisposed to look interested in your ramblings but do not necessarily care. The attention they give has more to do with empty food-bowls than anything interesting you might impart. Talking to yourself may be frowned on in the workplace. A carefully placed Sellotape strip across the lips should see you through the first few days.
Yes, those are other people. Now stop talking to them.
The Sellotape may not be enough to stem the flood of conversation which can happen once you realise that you are actually in the company of real live people again. One and half years of muted birthday celebrations, of undescribed births, hushed deaths, quiet marriages and relationship news is pent up in every returning employee. There will be a lot of talking! Take a breather now and then.
Prepare yourself for Micro-Management.
Managers and supervisors are paid to do just that. To Manage and Supervise. They may forget very quickly that you have just spent a year and a half working well without much of either. Prepare for a renewal of both and try not to punch anyone during the transition period. Claiming poor internet knocking them on mute and surreptitiously turning the camera off are no longer options.
It’s not a good idea to go peering into the canteen fridge every five minutes.
Months of wandering the kitchen at odd moments to see what was left-over from last night or just to grab a snack will be ingrained in your DNA now. Don’t do it. Likewise, you cannot put on a wash, run the hoover over the stairs and take a quick peek at a day-time soap. On the plus side, the window washing, loo cleaning and general upkeep of the office is probably not your responsibility and the mess at home is now safely out of sight and out of mind!
Getting used to anything less than a 30 second commute from the kitchen to the office will take some getting used to again. Both you and your car will need to ease in slowly and leave the house in plenty of time to navigate the unfamiliar roads back to your place of business, relying on the Sat Nav to get you safely there. Your parking spot is now either overgrown by weeds or commandeered by the new employee whom you have never met. Let it go. Your first act at the office should not involve nudging their car out of your parking space!
The Technical Hitches
You have forgotten the first few weeks at home when the internet connectivity was dodgy, the chair was the wrong height and the keyboard felt just wrong. Moving technical equipment or even moving yourself back in front of old technical equipment, is not without its teething problems. Don’t throw anything out the window immediately. In a few days all the technology will be working smoothly, and it will all seem just like home, except its work.
If we have learned anything over the past year and half of pandemic closures, we have learned to embrace change. The downsides of getting back to the office far out weight the good things. Finally, have your kitchen table/ spare-room/ back cupboard office back. The coffee, toilet rolls etc are paid by your company and you have real people to chat to. Apparently, we were all working longer hours at home anyway.
If you don’t settle back easily, there is always the blended working option. All of the above advice still applies if you intend to opt for a hybrid form of working. Change the way you look at things and things will change and Welcome back.