5 Things To Expect When It’s Time to Go Back To The Office After COVID
As vaccination rates rise and COVID case numbers drop in New York, life is slowly returning to what most of us think of as “normal.” Today, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that in order to enjoy New York’s restaurants, gyms, and other indoor facilities, you’ll need to show proof of vaccination. We will likely see many companies request the same as people begin heading back to the office, too.
As more employers decide it’s time to resume work in person, you may have mixed emotions about swapping sweats for slacks and Zoom for conference rooms. It’s perfectly natural to feel nervous about how things will go after working from home for so long.
To help make the transition from home office to office building as stress-free as possible, we’ve put together this list of five things you can expect to happen when your employer says it’s time to go back to the office — plus a few tips to deal with any uncertainty you’re feeling.
1. Mixed Feelings
If you’re not quite sure how you feel about going back to the office, you’re in good company. Recent surveys around the country (like this one from Boston) show that many people have mixed feelings about returning to work — which makes complete sense.
There are benefits of in-person work such as camaraderie with colleagues, spontaneous collaboration, mentorship, and fewer distractions from kids or pets. These things are difficult to replicate when working from home. But at the same time, you may be concerned about your safety or reluctant to leave behind the flexibility and freedom of working from home.
2. Changes To Your Commute
On the positive side, remote work and social distancing have resulted in reduced traffic congestion during the pandemic. As more people head back to work, traffic will increase, but it’s unlikely to hit pre-pandemic levels for quite some time.
If you use public transportation to get to work, you’ll have to get used to close proximity to other people. Most major cities still require masks on subways, trains, and buses so make sure to take one with you. Many cities have also developed apps that let you see public transit crowding in real-time so you can plan your commute and avoid the most crowded routes.
3. New Norms
Going back to the office doesn’t mean going back to doing things exactly the same as before the pandemic. There are two reasons for this — COVID is still around and the pandemic has changed us in ways that will last for a long time.
As a result, you should expect not only COVID safety protocols but new norms around dress code, meetings, schedules, co-worker interactions, and company events as your organization figures out how best to conduct post-pandemic business.
Not every business will embrace leggings and virtual Fridays, but they will all change in some ways, and you should be ready to adapt.
4. People Will Be … Well, People
Once you’re back in the office you’ll have to face one of the best and challenging parts of in-person work — other people. You should expect to enjoy laughing and catching up with colleagues you’ve missed, but you should also expect to encounter all the quirks and characteristics that make us human.
Most people will have mixed feelings about being back and will cooperate with company policies. But it’s important to remember not everyone’s comfort levels are the same. Prepare yourself to show patience to those with varying comfort levels returning to work, and to politely but firmly enforce your personal boundaries with people whose actions and opinions make you uncomfortable.
5. Communication & Cooperation
If your employer has started setting return to work dates, you should expect clear communication about safety protocols as well as details about things like dates, schedules, and why it’s important to return to the office. There may also be changes to protocols as we continue to learn and adapt to return to work during the pandemic.
You can also reasonably expect your employer to answer any questions you have and to accommodate reasonable requests.
Not sure you understand how team meetings will work? Need a flexible start time to accommodate childcare? Don’t be afraid to ask about anything that’s on your mind and to express legitimate concerns if you have them.
Tips For Going Back To The Office After COVID: Positivity, Practice & Patience
We’ve told you about some things you can expect when it’s time to go back to the office, so now we want to leave you with a few quick tips for how to get ready to face them.
Focus On The Positives
Spend some time meditating on the good parts of in-person work and visualizing things like positive co-worker interactions, more structure, and less time working at your dining room table. Focus on things you can control and do your best to let the rest go.
Practice Before The Big Day
Get ready to go back to the office before it’s time. Adjust your sleeping schedule, do a commute practice run, line up your favorite podcasts, and maybe even buy a new outfit to help you feel prepared for office life.
Show Yourself — And Others — Patience
The truth is, adjusting to post-pandemic life is going to take time. Be patient with yourself, your family, your co-workers, and your employer. When you’re frustrated, anxious, or overwhelmed, take a deep breath and remember we’re all figuring this out together.
Has your company returned to the office yet? If so, what are some tips you’d share with others who haven’t made the transition? Let us know on Twitter.