Since the further easing of community measures came into force on April 26, all employees may now return to the workplace. While there is now, technically, no reason for us to be working from home anymore, this doesn’t mean that most of us want to do so.
After more than two years of either working from home or following a hybrid system of work because of the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s hard to imagine going into the office five times a week again.
First, there’ the physical ritual of waking up early, getting dressed in work attire (picking an outfit can be stressful!), driving to the office in rush hour traffic or cramming onto public transport with others — then doing it all over again on the way home.
There’s also the mental aspect of going back to the workplace. For example, introverts have been extremely happy working from home and not having to deal with face-to-face social interactions at the office.
It could also be cheaper for you to work from home as you don’t spend on transport and the unnecessary-but-much-needed takeaway coffees from that nice cafe next to the office. Or you might find that you have far less distractions working from home.
Whatever your reasons for wanting to stick to a remote or flexible work arrangement, it’s normal to feel anxious about going back to the office. You might be used to your cosy office space in you home by now but it’s time to ditch the comfy (bottom-half, probably) lounge outfits and ease back into your office desk again.
Here are seven tips to recalibrate yourself as you switch from remote working to back-to-office mode.
Set realistic expectations
Returning to the office could mean that we’re back to the grind of 9-5 working. It’s going to be hard for you to run from one in-person meeting or work appointment to another after not doing it for so long. So start slow if you can and choose carefully how you’re going to spend your working hours.
You’re going to end up being exhausted in your first few days back at work and feel even more anxious about it if you immediately throw yourself into a packed schedule.
Practice your work routine
If you haven’t been back to the office full-time yet, you should try to get into the routine before you do so. Wake up at the time you’ll need to once this change takes place.
Look for your office key card. Do the chores you’ll need to once you go back, such as ironing your outfits or preparing lunch/snacks. You could even visit the office building before you go back, to familiarise yourself with the area again. Think of it as a dress rehearsal for the big day.
You could also reconnect in-person with colleagues you haven’t seen in a while. It’ll be easier to work together again if you’ve met before returning to the office.
Change your mindset
Yes, we know it’s hard to make this transition but if you’re constantly feeling a sense of dread, you’re going to only pay attention to the things that aren’t working out. But you don’t have to plaster on a smile to get through each workday. Instead, have a more balanced view of the situation.
What were some things you really enjoyed about working at the office? Did you love breakfast catch-ups with a particular colleague? Or did the view from your office window calm you? It could be little things that used to brighten up your work day — think about those positive aspects to help ease your anxiety.
Focus on things you can control
It’s important to accept the situation you’re in and recognise things that you can’t control when you have to go back to the office. You also won’t be able to control how your colleagues and bosses behave. What you can do, however, is control your feelings and response to the situation.
Be kind to yourself
Know that you’re not the only one going through this. The Covid-19 pandemic has changed most of us, whether it was brought about by grief, loneliness, new hobbies and interests, or even if you thrived in the work-from-home environment. It was an unprecedented event and it’s safe to say that nobody was mentally prepared for it.
So take the time to centre yourself — and be kind to others as you never now how much they’re struggling with it too. If you have changed in positive ways, keep going and try to bring that to your office environment.
Get help if you need to
If you’re finding it extremely hard to cope with going back to the office, speak to a close friend or family member and share with them how you feel. Seek a professional workplace counsellor if you prefer to talk to a qualified stranger.
Take this opportunity to not just adjust to this new work normal but the choices you make in every situation. Going back to a 9-5? Make sure you don’t turn on your laptop when you get home. Need more relaxation time during the day? Turn on your favourite music during your commute — or even at your office desk, if possible.
Want to keep some fun hobbies you picked up while working from home? Try that daily crossword app while you make coffee in your office pantry. Think about what joys you have found or rediscovered the last two years and work them into your daily routine.