What Does the Return to In-Person Work Mean If You Will Continue Remote?

Remote work involves plenty of challenges. But what about when most of your colleagues return to in-person offices while you remain working from home? What does that mean for you? For them?

If there is one comfort, it is this: The seismic shift in workplace habits and culture that has occurred over the last two years or so has thrown just about everyone for a loop. In fact, NBC News reports this mostly permanent shift to remote and hybrid work situations is “the largest change in American working and living arrangements since World War II.” Read on to find out what the partial return to in-person work means if you are continuing to work remote.

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The return to the office will mostly be voluntary

As much as some companies would love to have all of their employees back in the office, at this point it looks like that simply will not happen. Now that people have gotten a taste of a commute-free, flexible-hours workday, many people simply do not want to go back. That means those who do return to the office will do so willingly. Forbes suggests these people will mostly consist of those who enjoy the social aspect of work, want to get noticed by the higher ups, or who are just entering the workforce and want to see what “corporate culture” is all about.

You will have to get incredibly good at communication

Communication has always been particularly important for remote workers, but it is doubly so once other coworkers have returned to the office. Company policies will have to be firmly and clearly put in place when it comes to office meetings, team collaborations, or anything else that requires hybrid communication. Email and real-time communication tools like Slack should be utilized in order to make sure any ideas or decisions made in the office are sufficiently communicated to those working remote (and vice-versa). It will, admittedly, be more work than just popping your head in a coworker’s office, but it will greatly benefit everyone in the long run.

Make an effort to be included

Keep in mind you are no longer in the office for the casual brainstorming that happens near the watercooler or the small decisions that get made via a quick cubicle visit. This means you face the risk of fracturing from in-office colleagues. As the Harvard Business Review explains, it requires extra effort to loop in remote coworkers. What may start out as coworkers forgetting to clue you in on small discussions can quickly snowball into you being frozen out of more important conversations and decisions. So how do you prevent this from happening? Unfortunately, it is up to you to make the effort to check in regularly with teammates, whether that is via phone call, email, or work chat app. This is where that ability to communicate really comes in handy.

Brace yourself for social shifts

In a way it was easier when everyone worked remotely since everyone was forced to socialize via Zoom. But now that some of your colleagues are back in the office, the balance of social relationships will naturally shift. And not just those of friends—the office is often a prominent place to build mentorships and otherwise engage with higher ups who can help you climb the corporate ladder. While some of your colleagues will resume benefiting from these in-person interactions, you will likely find yourself working harder to stay connected both with office buddies and with your bosses. Companies who know what they are doing will account for this potential break by creating specific workplace exercises and meetings to compensate. But just being aware of the potential pitfalls of this dynamic can help you prevent it from happening.

Collaboration is key when it comes to working remotely—and it is even more important when other coworkers have returned to the office. Just remember to be patient with yourself (and others). It will take time for everyone to find their groove, but when they do—it will be business as usual.

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