We have all seen the memes that say “back to work”, but let’s be honest, heading back to the office might be the most stressful parts of work life this year. Heading back to the office is going to require some adjustments for many employees. If you’re returning to the office on either a full-time or hybrid schedule, here are 8 ways to prepare yourself for the change.
From how your desks are arranged to allow for social distancing to the equipment you’ll use for meetings in the conference room, it’s important to talk to your managers or human resources (HR) department to get a sense of what will be different now. You’ll also want to determine whether you’re going back to the office full time or whether you’ll adopt a hybrid schedule. Some companies are being more flexible about the latter, as nearly 6 in 10 workers would look for a new job if forced to go back to the office full time.
Caregiving responsibilities have been a big challenge for many families during the pandemic. More than 1 in 10 women reported having to care for a family member, including children and aging relatives, during the past two years. Organizing care for children and other family members is critical, because there is so much demand for these services, it may take some time to find caregiving facilities that suit your needs.
After two years in the closet, your wardrobe may need a bit of an update. Check office policies about attire. Then, try on the clothes you plan to wear to ensure they fit comfortably, and purchase some new items if necessary.
Another thing that may have changed is your commute. Many public transit agencies revised their train and bus schedules at the start of the pandemic and still may not be running as frequently as they did two years ago. Double-check mass transit schedules (and prices), detours on driving routes due to new road work, and even toll changes.
It might also be a good idea to do a dry run of your commute before your first day back at the office to see if anything significant has changed. Depending on your workplace there may also be changes like elevator social distancing requirements and any new check-in procedures.
If you’ve gotten into the habit of staying up or sleeping later than you did pre-pandemic, adjusting to an earlier alarm clock setting might take some getting used to. After all, you’ll need to allow time for your back-to-the-office morning routine. The effects of too little sleep can be significant, too. For example, people with severe insomnia are seven times more likely to have work-related accidents and commuting accidents than good sleepers. Work on adjusting your sleep schedule to match the time you’ll need to get up on office days.
Eating is another area that may get trickier — or more expensive — when you go back to the office. Some businesses are avoiding communal food, kitchens or cafeterias. So, you may need to think about bringing lunch or making other arrangements. You may also need to do more meal planning and cooking ahead, as starting the prep for a full dinner after a long day’s work may seem exhausting.
As you visualize going into the office, this is the perfect time for you to think about what you need from your fellow coworkers and how to communicate that effectively. Identify what boundaries you need to set and be ready to state and reiterate them: “I’m not ready to talk about what happened to my family during the pandemic,” or, “I’m keeping six feet away at the moment.”
Reflect on what’s important to you so that “in the moment, when you’re faced with a potentially uncomfortable question, you’re not trying to decide how to respond.
You’re only human, after all, and this has been a taxing time. The people around you very likely feel the same way you do. When you feel comfortable, speak openly about your stress with people you trust. Know that you’re doing the best you can, and that what you’re doing is enough.
It might be hard to see this time as an opportunity, but there’s no better moment to take stock of your work life and see what could be improved. It’s also a good time to assess whether your stress is centered around the transition, or if it’s more about the job itself.
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