Most office workers have spent the last sixteen months working from home, with little face-to-face or no contact with colleagues. Boundaries have become blurred with private home space becoming an office. Zoom or Teams have become the norm and this has meant that our home lives have merged with our work lives. Our work colleagues suddenly know so much more about our personal lives and we’re not all ok with that.
Going back to work can feel scary
Some of us have been struggling with fear and uncertainty for a long time and have been in fight, flight, or freeze mode with an invisible enemy. As a result of this, Anxiety has become much more prevalent in our lives.
What lies outside our homes has become scary and alien and it is safer to stay inside, in our comfort zone. We’ve all got used to wearing comfy clothes, maybe not showering every day and various other lapses in personal hygiene when we’re at home all day. Remote working has kept the world ticking over, but Zoom and telephone are a poor substitute for human interaction where we can touch, smell, and feel. Finding ourselves out of practice feels daunting, even scary.
If you’re experiencing fear about returning to the office, here are some tips to make the transition a little earlier:
Take small steps to ease your way back into it
Going from five days at home to five days in the office could be too much. Try flexible hours to start with me. How about three in the office and two at home to start with? Talk to your manager and check this is ok and then agree on what the longer-term working plan will be and adjust your home responsibilities to suit.
Rebuild your office contacts
Get in touch with close colleagues and build up social interaction before you return to the office. You could meet for a coffee and just hang out to find your cohesion as a group again. Feeling connected with your colleagues before you start back will mean that you are coming back to a warm start rather than feeling like strangers on the first day back at work.
This is a great opportunity to make a change.
Are you happy in your current role or could this be the chance to make a jump to a new role or, to make a change to your current role? Consider whether this is an opportunity to have a complete change of work or to go for a different role in the same company. Look at your strengths and think about where you want to be in the future, then work towards that goal. Is your current job meeting your needs? If not, then try to find out why?
Make time, before you go back, to relax and look after yourself so you’re mentally ready to return to the office.
You have been through a hugely stressful period, so reward yourself with time out. Consider this an investment in feeling good and reducing stress levels so that you will be able to perform better in work. Try a bit of self-care, your mind and body will thank you for it.
When you are back at work, it is also important to continue to invest in your wellbeing, keep up the good habits. A walk at lunchtime and eating healthy food rather than a rushed sandwich at your desk will make you healthier and more productive. We all need a break.
Relish the opportunity
There are many reasons why people go to work. Clearly, money is important for many but there are many other benefits of going to work. If you can focus on these, then the return to the office will be much more compelling. The benefits can include mixing with your colleagues, bouncing ideas of your colleagues and random chats, ‘water cooler moments’
Think through what you can do to make the list even more compelling. For your first day back to be fun and fulfilling, what do you need to have happened?
Press the Reset button
You have had a lot of time away and you will have changed. This is an exciting opportunity to reset yourself and be the best version of yourself when you go back to work.
It may have been a while since you saw your colleagues and you will all have changed but this can be a good thing. You can go back to work with a new found confidence and use that confidence at work.
It could also be a chance to change your images. New clothes, a new hairstyle, whatever you feel comfortable doing. Then just feel your newfound confidence glowing as you return to work and let the new you unfold.