When the pandemic restrictions first set in, many of us had to adjust to remote work. Now that offices are beginning to reopen, some of us might be relieved at the prospect of leaving our houses, but many are still feeling anxious about yet another change.
The transition back to the workplace may be much harder than the transition to working from home. From childcare solutions to anxieties around the virus, many may feel apprehensive about managing this change well. Plus, our brains will need to adapt to a “new normal” in the office, from having temperatures taken to sitting at new desks. Luckily, there are some ways you can minimise the fears.
1. Begin by readjusting to your office routine
It’s best to readjust your routine while you’re still working from home. You’d need to account for the time saved from commuting, allowing for later breakfasts, lunchtime workouts, and flexible hours of work while at home.
Start adapting to a routine that will work for you when you go back to the office. This might include waking up much earlier, meal prepping on the weekends, and ending work by a stipulated time. It may not seem like much but these small changes can easily disrupt your flow. The goal is to steadily build up to it, instead of diving into the deep end.
2. Keep an open mind and stay flexible
Granted, the post-pandemic period is marked by a significant number of changes. Protocols, work reviews, and new policies may be implemented and gradually evolve over time.
Go in with an open mind and recognise that there will be many changes during this time. Understand that everyone may be feeling anxious as well so try to be a source of joy to the colleagues around you. Small gestures like virtual coffee catch-ups or socially distanced venues can lift the spirits of those around you. Similarly, be patient with others as they find their bearings.
3. Continue to practise self-care
Taking care of yourself became a top priority when working from home. It should be the same when you return to work. Despite taking all the precautions possible, transitioning from home to office can still be overwhelming with specific challenges for parents and caregivers. Some may be worried about losing certain work-from-home perks such as flexible hours and independence over work. Fear can be a powerful motivator, but it can also hijack your ability to make considered and rational decisions, causing you to focus on facts that increase your anxieties.
Hence, taking care of your psychological well-being is pivotal to making the return to work easy. Listen to what your body and mind needs. Incorporate time for hobbies, regular exercise, and activities that energise you. Because stress is internalised in your body, make sure you’re aware of the signals. A constantly clenched jaw, headaches, back pain, and inability to focus at work are all signs you need to slow down. One good way of keeping your mental health in check is to meditate for short amounts of time either throughout or at the end of the day.
4. Manage expectations at work
You should expect your company protocols and ways of working to have changed. In fact, they may still shift over time. Everyone is facing uncertainty and stress, albeit differently and in varying degrees. Forming assumptions around ambiguity does little to alleviate the concerns you may have. So does running at full capacity when a momentous change is underway.
Whether you’re a manager or an individual contributor, managing expectations is crucial to adapting to new realities. If you are finding other childcare options challenging, need flexibility, or are feeling overwhelmed with the transition, communicate openly and respectfully with your manager. Whether it’s adjusting to hybrid work schedules, flexible hours, or doing a reassessment of workload, try arranging meetings with your manager to get a handle of things.
5. Keep your eyes on the big picture
It’s easy to lose sight of the forest for the trees. Returning to work can be very positive. Any transition is bound to be laden with challenges and obstacles. Instead of focusing on the negatives, reframe your experiences in a positive light and recall the good parts of being back in the office. This includes interacting with your colleagues, having a sense of normalcy re-instilled, and new opportunities that may be coming your way.
As the post-pandemic world continues to shape up, it’s helpful to remember that every unknown is an opportunity for you to grab on to. While you may not be able to influence these changes, you can control how you react and take advantage of it.