April 20, 2022

With two years of working from home under our collective belts, many employees are finally being asked to return to the office under hybrid schedules. While working from home, we’ve grown accustomed to doing our jobs in relative isolation. As a result, shifting back to the realities of a regular commute and sharing a space with several coworkers may feel a bit alien at first. However, consider this widespread return to the workplace a fresh start—an opportunity to build better working habits, refresh your daily rituals, and make changes that keep both your productivity and contentment on the rise.

Readjusting to Other People

Over the past few months, employees may have gotten used to having a lot of space and comparative quiet compared to their pre-pandemic workplace (or maybe, working from home was a noisy nightmare—everyone’s WFH experience has varied). However, more and more of your colleagues will soon be sharing the space, bringing with them the struggles and anxieties of a workforce that’s been largely isolated. A recent New York Times article touches on how to handle some of these issues: loud-talking or noisy coworkers, the unwanted smells emanating from microwaved leftovers, unanticipated interruptions throughout the day. These will all inevitably be a factor as people reestablish what it means to be an office worker in 2022.

Be sure to practice grace and forgiveness not only for your colleagues, but also for yourself. Just as the pandemic forced us to be flexible, reentering the workplace will require a bit more individual resilience as we get accustomed to the space and each other again. As author and workplace expert Lindsey Pollack says in the Times article: “Acknowledge that we are out of shape dealing with other people. Lower your expectations and assume that you’re going to have some annoyances. And really give thought to the new habits that you want to create from Day 1, and be deliberate about making changes now.”

About Those Old Habits and Routines…

Daily routines and small indulgences keep us grounded and give us both structure and a little something to look forward to—coffee from a favorite café, chatting with colleagues while settling in to work, grabbing lunch at that great spot by the office. Whatever your preferences, now is the time not only to return to old haunts, but also to explore new places and new ways of working. Make efforts to reconnect with your colleagues in a meaningful way. Utilize available workplace services and amenities. Check out a new restaurant that opened near the office. Participate in workplace events and build new connections while also emphasizing your own professional development. By doing things that make you feel more productive and more involved your workplace community, you can lay a fresh foundation to achieve new goals and pursue ongoing success.

Regarding routines, be sure you’re not overextending yourself—even adding a commute back into your life will likely take some adjustment. Many will return to a more flexible work environment and enjoy a rare opportunity to shape the workplace experience. Consider what you need to be at your best and let workplace leaders know what’s working and what isn’t.

Focus on the Experience

With employers making extra efforts to appeal to employees and provide a better experience, you may see some changes in your workplace. The pandemic forced people to reexamine their work habits broadly. In this time of transition, take some time to identify what you like about your work experience and what could be different. With so much in flux, everything from where you sit to when you come to the office has the potential to change. If something would make your job easier or more efficient, let your supervisor or HR know about it—now more than ever, leaders may be open to new ideas on how to solve emerging problems.

Over the past two years, we've all witnessed tremendous amounts of change and experienced an unprecedented, world-historical stressor. As we begin to rebuild something similar to our pre-COVID lives, workers now have an opportunity to continue shaping the workplace and cultivate a space that allows them to collaborate successfully and get the most out of their days. Although we're still in the early stages of reestablishing what normal looks like, we're closer than we've been in years; that alone is cause for celebration.

 

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