After seemingly countless weeks of quarantine and social distancing due to the COVID-19 pandemic, most jurisdictions are lifting restrictions and tiptoeing toward the latest version of normal. That means your days of working from home are numbered, and you’ll soon return the office. Caution: it’ll be a big transition! It might even be agonizing. But, albeit different from pre-pandemic times, we must go back and start to adjust to business as (un)usual.
Take a deep breath, and use this three-pronged approach to regain your rhythm.
1. Get Prepared
Your first day back in the office won’t feel like you’re returning from vacation. There will be noticeable differences all around. Stay updated on communications from your employer. Understand the new policies and expectations. Will you be required to wear face coverings? If you’re in an open space environment, will there now be barriers in place? How will social distancing work in break rooms and other common spaces? Know before you go.
It’s also important to get mentally, physically, and emotionally prepared. Try to restore your sleep schedule and healthy eating habits. Exercise and meditate. Take note of anything that you think may trigger you once back in the office. Practice how you might respond to invasive or silly questions from coworkers. Develop a few go-to ways to manage stress and maintain good energy—because undoubtedly your patience will be tested!
Don’t forget about the logistics. Will you have adequate childcare if your normal provider is closed? How will your commute be affected? Major public transportation systems might not be fully operational when it’s time for you to return. In addition, consider things like your lunch routine and the need for additional personal protective equipment that your employer may not provide.
Think broadly about what you need and prepare accordingly.
2. Go Slow
While away from the office for a couple of months, you’ve surely developed new habits and patterns that you’ll have to work your way out of. Don’t rush! If you’re allowed to maintain a full or partial remote work schedule, take advantage of it. Watch for signs of stress and fatigue during the initial period of transition and beyond. Since you may actually work harder while you’re at home or while you’re trying to make up for lost time during your first few days back, catch up on your rest. Keep in mind that it is okay to use your paid leave to decompress.
Not only will you be focused on getting back into office mode, but also you still need to protect yourself from the virus threat, which will be ongoing. You’ll need to balance being vigilant without being paranoid. What will you do if a coworker appears to be sick at work? How will you react if you see others not following guidelines? Have a plan, or at least have an idea of how you will handle sticky situations.
3. Stay Positive
Although it might be difficult, the best thing you can do is stay motivated and positive. Expect that things will go smoothly, and most likely they will. As discussed previously, take good care yourself in every way. It’s tempting to be laser focused on work, but you should build in time for fun. Whether it’s taking a break for an afternoon walk, or enjoying a Friday outdoor happy hour with friends, make time to clear your head.
Overall, do the best you can. Stay connected with friends and family, and help them out if they are struggling to cope. Nothing has to be perfect, especially starting out. Cut yourself and those around you some slack—we’re all in this together, and things will get easier.
Good luck, and let us know how you’re doing!
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