Strategies to Transition Back to the Office after Working from Home During a Pandemic
It’s safe to say life will never be the same after the COVID-19 pandemic is over. With so much focus right now on keeping yourself and others around you healthy, returning to a “normal” routine seems like a fairytale at this point—but it will happen eventually. After so many workers have been forced to (unexpectedly and abruptly) work from home the past few weeks, what’s the best way to transition back to the office?
Make the mental move
First things first: Shift your mindset. Whether you loved or hated working from home, preparing yourself for the more structured environment of an office takes a psychological shift—no more pajamas or laptops on the couch! Fast Company suggests embracing the new (old) normal by focusing “on the opportunities that will come with being in the office.” For example, your coworkers and supervisors will be more easily accessible, major decisions can be made faster and in a more cohesive manner, all the equipment you need will be there, etc.
Bring in a bit of home
Now that you’ve had a taste of what it’s like working from home, there’s no reason to give up all the comforts you’ve come to enjoy. Take this time to make your workspace a little homier—whether that means hanging some personal pictures, bringing in a small houseplant you heroically kept alive, or stocking your new favorite flavored coffee in the company breakroom. Bringing in just a handful of (nonobtrusive) items that personally helped you through the pandemic can go a long way toward easing the home-to-office move.
Keep up your routine
You no doubt fell into a certain routine while working from home. That’s a good thing! Take what worked for you and use it to your advantage when you get back to the office. The Muse asserts that, by this point in the process of telecommuting, you’re likely to have realized which corporate tasks you handle best at which points in the day (for example, your mornings are perfect for mundane tasks while your afternoon energy is better suited for big projects)—so don’t be afraid to mention these preferences to your now physically present coworkers. You might just find your in-office productivity soars as a result of this extended at home hiatus.
Maintain your stellar communication skills
There is one thing to be said about working from home: You’re pretty much forced to become a great communicator. Whether it’s collaborating on a major project with your fellow coworkers via video conferencing, calling your boss with daily updates on your progress, or emailing clients with questions, telecommuting requires you to keep the lines of communication open from the moment your workday starts until quitting time (and unfortunately, sometimes beyond).
Each phone call and email must include all necessary details in a clear and concise manner in order to cut down on any possible confusion stemming from the fact that you aren’t physically around. Now is a great opportunity to bring that transparency back to the office. So even though your coworkers and supervisor will be around to drop in and ask questions, why not treat every correspondence with the same level of detail you honed during your time at home?
With so much focus in recent years on transitioning from office life to telecommuting, it can seem a bit surreal to have to try and navigate the situation in reverse. Most importantly, give yourself a bit of time to readjust back to the “old” normal. You and your coworkers—and most likely the entire world—are sure to be a bit shell-shocked after this pandemic is all said and done. Be kind to yourself and others, and soon being back in the office will be just another part of your day.