After months of uncertainty and sudden changes, many of us are heading back into the office, which may bring mixed feelings depending on how you've coped with the recent events, how easy it was to adapt given varying circumstances, and the degree of support that was available. Although some of us may be relishing the ability to make conference calls in the warmth of pyjamas, many others are excited to reestablish that separation between work and home. This is easier said than done given all the new measures in place, as well as the inevitable anxiety surrounding potential health and safety issues, so here are some tips to keep in mind as you greet colleagues face-to-face for the first time in a long while.
MENTAL PREPARATION IS HALF THE JOB
Mindset is important in any situation, and particularly so when approaching changes, whether they be big or small. Whether or not it's your call to relocate back into the office, make a mental or written list of potential changes that will arise, and match them with related pros and cons. Overthinking can be common when a routine is broken. If you're beside your yourself with excitement, think about how to also channel that energy into a working space at home so that you can be equally productive regardless of location. If you're dreading the commute or having to sit in on physical meetings, think about the spontaneous interactions you're bound to have and the ease of walking just a desk over to address an issue.
REVAMP YOUR ROUTINE
It was necessary to establish a routine that incorporated and balanced multiple parts of your life whilst working from home. If you were lucky, that was likely done with only a few iterations, but reflect on how that positively or negatively influenced the relationship you have with your work, the people around you, and other activities you enjoy. Perhaps you found a better way to schedule in calls, leaving more time for physical activity in between work hours. Perhaps it was easier to get started later in the day after devoting some precious time to the rest of your family. Despite shifting physically back into the office, you may not decide to revert completely to the pre-Covid-19 work schedule after figuring yourself and your habits out on a more detailed level.
MAINTAIN AND DEVELOP THOSE COMMUNICATION SKILLS
When the most that others got from you was your voice or a snapshot of your face on the screen, it was crucial to manage voice tone, engagement, and facial expressions as well as gestures. It's easy to recognize for yourself what keeps your mind awake and what bores you to the point of sleep or annoyance, but more difficult to recognize that in yourself. In close physical spaces, we once again have the ability to rely on other signals such as body language, attention, and agreement, but keep in mind all the skills developed in quarantine and maximize those abilities in online meetings, virtual presentations, or even phone calls, regardless of whether you're in or out of the office.
There are plenty of anticipated changes that may pop up over the next few months, but don't forget to reflect on these unusual experiences and hold onto the learnings you've chanced upon!