Back to the office after lockdown

By Mel Sim

Does reading that make you nervous? You’ll want to read on.

We’ve been working for so long at home that now when it’s time to head back into the office, suddenly we feel out of place… and a little worried too for some. The anxiety is real with cases still in its thousands and no sight to the end, really. What more when you have to go for actual physical meetings and for some of us, traveling on public transportation to and fro work. Then there is the whole having gotten used to working from the comforts of home and not having to deal with traffic, colleagues stealing your pens, bosses who are there physically breathing down your neck asking for that report.

How oh how do you prepare yourself to move out of WFH to WFO (work from office, in case you’re wondering)? Try these tips to make the process easier.

#1 Go in for an hour or two before you have to start working from the office 9 to 5
Don’t jump right in; ease yourself to the routine first. This way, you can slowly get used to the idea of working from the office and come about to know the routine again. While you’re there, tidy up and sanitise your table (hello, dust!). Add some new photos on the board, rearrange things so it feels exciting. This way when it’s officially D-day, you can start work in a clean and organised environment that will be good for your stress level.

#2 Focus on the positives
No pet cat to disturb you during your Zoom calls. A dedicated workspace instead of the kitchen table. Colleagues to have around you instead of just house plants. Your favourite coffee joint downstairs! These are some of the positives you can focus on that will help with the anxiety. When you spend time thinking about what you’ll gain from going back to the office, you may start considering it as a pretty good idea after all – I mean, office chair with support versus bed…

#3 Start getting used to your back-at-work routine
Which means no more Netflix bingeing till late night. No more snoozing until a few minutes before you’re scheduled to start work. You’ll now have to get to work at a specific time and this may be a shock to your routine at work. So start working on establishing a routine bedtime that will help you get ready and get to work on time. More importantly, get enough sleep! Staying up late and having an afternoon nap was a luxury during WFH. Unfortunately, you won’t get to enjoy it anymore so clock in more sleep to reduce getting ready for work stress or nodding off in those physical meetings!

#4 Tell others your boundaries
You don’t have to leave it up to management to set the SOPs at work; you can do it yourself if it means making the transition as stress-free as possible. Make it clear that you’re still practising physical distancing, especially before someone steps into your space and causes you to feel all sorts of anxiety. Simply take a step back if that happens or use your chair to create that boundary. Speak to your colleagues and say you’re still social distancing. If you have a physical meeting that you don’t really want to go for, speak to your boss about joining remotely. With all that’s happened the past two years, there’s no way your boss can say no.

#5 Find what works for you
Rather stay in every alternate day to still WFH? Speak to your boss. Not happy with your company’s SOPs? Bring it up to HR. Your job no longer excites you in the office? Maybe it’s time to look for something else. The point is this: You are in control of career post-lockdown, whether it is still wanting to stay at home until cases dip further or finding something that gives you more satisfaction after two very challenging year.

Photo by Maxime on Unsplash

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