Post-Pandemic Job Tips: Working in an Office Environment Again
In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic forced organizations to adopt new business practices and, in turn, new ways of working for employees. Across industries, companies had to pivot their traditional models to accommodate asynchronous collaboration in remote work scenarios.
For many, remote work was a difficult transition. Some people did not have adequate at-home capabilities or resources that mimicked their traditional in-office work station. Others experienced a blurred line between their personal and professional lives, causing strain in how employees were able to differentiate between physical and mental spaces for work and home life. However, over time, many organizations and employees established a successful routine and approach to working remotely.
It is unlikely that things will revert back to “business as usual” as they were pre-COVID. At least in the short-term, businesses, if they have not already, must reimagine their workplaces to reflect evolving organizational priorities and align with current recommended health and safety standards. These measures might include distanced office layouts, restricted collaboration and meeting spaces, temperature checks, touch-free entry points, and mandatory masks.
It is important to keep in mind that returning to the workplace after the COVID-19 pandemic comes to an end will not just be a physical adjustment, but also a mental and emotional one as well. As employees approach this transition in the wake of vaccine rollouts, there are many considerations for how to successfully manage this shift from a professional and personal standpoint.
Tips for Transitioning Back into the Workplace
While the transition back to the workplace post-pandemic might not be quite as difficult or jarring as the initial abrupt shift to remote work many experienced in early 2020, it will certainly come with challenges. Many employees have become accustomed to working from home - including the new norm of video conferencing - and even find it a more favorable format. They’ve also gotten used to the flexibility it provides and the comforts and healthier work-life balance that come with it.
As your organization resumes in-person operations and permits, or even requests, employees to come back into the office, there are a few points to consider to prepare yourself.
Go Back When it Feels Right
While not everyone will have the option of choosing their return date, it should be acknowledged that you, along with your coworkers, have successfully and efficiently worked remotely for more than a year. Your dedication to working during strenuous times in an unprecedented remote scenario should leave you feeling empowered to negotiate return dates or advocate for ongoing work-from-home policies.
Your mental and physical health, safety, and wellbeing should be your top concern as you manage your transition back to a traditional office environment.
Adjust to Less Flexibility
One of the greatest benefits of working from home is the flexibility you have. During this past year, many employees experienced more freedom to pursue personal interests without their daily commutes and geographic constraints affecting their schedules. Those with children at home adapted their days to fit in overseeing school lessons or share in parenting. Many remote workers were able to adjust their working hours from the typical 9-5 to a schedule that aligned with productivity and other needs.
Additionally, there was the advantage of comfort. Being able to work on the couch in your sweatpants, or walk over to the fridge for lunch instead of having to meal prep for the week, was a great benefit of working from home.
If you’re heading back to the traditional in-office work environment, prep yourself mentally with the expectation that these flexibilities will no longer be the norm. While some employees may prefer a more structured, traditional work environment, others may have a difficult time adjusting to having less flexibility in their work routine.
Daily Routine and Caregiving Options
To ease back into your work routine post-pandemic, you may want to begin incorporating behaviors and customs from your typical routine pre-pandemic. For example, this might include getting up earlier to give yourself time to eat breakfast and mentally prepare for the day, the same way as you would if you were commuting to the office. Similarly, you might start prepping meals in advance for lunch every day, taking a break at lunch to go for walks, grabbing coffee with a friend or coworker, and so forth.
Additionally, for many parents, a great advantage of remote work is the ability to watch and care for their children while working from home. This dynamic allowed employees to scale back on child care costs and spend more time with their families. As it becomes more commonplace to return to the office, some parents may need to consider alternative childcare methods or reinstate their original caregiving routine.
Getting to Know Your Colleagues
Many would say one of the biggest downsides of remote work is the lack of social interaction and the inability to form deep connections with co-workers. This is especially true for professionals who started new jobs during the pandemic.
Something to look forward to as you return to the office is the ability to see your coworkers face-to-face again, or meet them for the first time, after months of working together virtually.
Connecting with your co-workers in a non-professional context is important because it helps you better understand who they are as people rather than exclusively who they are as employees and managers. This benefits your work relationships, such as developing the ability to approach issues and scenarios with empathy, which in turn produces more productive collaboration.
While some companies found effective ways to incorporate company culture into the remote environment, such as activities and social hours through video conferencing, many would say it’s still more difficult to feel connected virtually. In a professional sense, conversing and socializing with coworkers face-to-face again means new interactions and networking opportunities that could ultimately lead to new experiences that advance your career development.
Good Luck with Your Transition
Everyone who plans or is expected to return back to a traditional work environment post-pandemic will experience a unique transition. Your individual routine, responsibilities, and physical, mental, and emotional health are completely distinctive to you. Try to use these tips and considerations to best plan what’s to come for your personal and professional life post-pandemic and prepare yourself so this shift is a smooth and seamless as possible. Good luck!
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