After months of working from home, and a COVID vaccine in production, we can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. While we are not out of the woods yet, for many remote workers, this means that our time working from home (most likely) will be ending sometime in 2021. It’s time to start thinking about what that may look like.
For me, a return to work won’t be as simple as waking up an hour earlier, throwing out my (surely) dead desk plants, setting down my laptop, and getting to work. I have built a routine where aspects of my work life and personal life are dependent on one another (timewise), and that doesn’t make for a “clean break”. Although I am a mom to a few fur babies, I think about working parents who have children who are e-learning, and, for them, the question of returning to work is dependent upon the school district and childcare availability.
If you have a child, pet, or another member of the family who now relies on you being home, or even if you filled your commute and/or lunchtime with a recurring commitment, the impending return to office will impact these situations, too.
Whatever your specific circumstances, returning to work after over a year of working from home will be an adjustment. Here are a few tips on how you can prepare to return to work:
Having physical supplies may seem obvious, but it is critical, nonetheless. What office supplies did you take home with you when Shelter in Place began? Double, and triple-check that you remember to take it back into the office with you. Additionally, there may be a few new items you’ll want to stock up on.
Mask? ✔ Hand sanitizer? ✔ Disinfectant wipes? ✔
2. Keep the Theme of your Routine
As facets of American life shifts back to being in-person, it may not always be possible to hold on to your 2020 routine as it stands, but you don’t have to change everything about it. If saving on your evening commute allowed you to make dinner every night, keep the routine up on the days you are home (weekends/days off). If it’s a question of quality time with your kids, have Pizza Fridays and Sundae Sundays. If it’s a pet, take them for a walk in the morning or after work, so they know you missed them as much as they missed you.
3. Set your Alarm Back
Maybe, instead of filling your new-found time with activities, you used it to catch up on some Zs. Resetting in this manner might be the hardest adjustment of all. To prepare for this, once you know your return to office date, start setting your alarm back to your regular time so you can help your body adjust to the earlier wake-up call.
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4. Talk About It
Kids have an easier time adjusting and understanding change when it is talked about and reminded of the upcoming event. Turn the conversation into something fun for the little ones. Set up a countdown calendar for when you are going back to work. Not only will talking about it help everyone in the home mentally prepare, but it will also make the transition less abrupt.
5. It's OK to Miss Them
When you return to work, you’re also changing the time spent with your loved ones. The emotional closeness brought on by being physically close can be quite a change. Set up a new picture of your kid(s) or pet, or perhaps some artwork they created for you, to help you through your day.
6. Communicate with your Employer
If diving back into the office at 40 hours a week is too drastic a transition for you, don’t assume returning to the office in a full capacity is the only option – your employer may be able to provide flexibility on that front. You will never know what you can and can’t do if you don’t ask.
Building a New, Old Routine
Feeling overwhelmed or anxious about returning to work after months of working from home is normal. Humans are creatures of habit, and if we were able to adjust to 2020 as quickly as we did, building a new, old routine should be a piece of cake.