back to office

Tips to help smooth the transition

30 September 2021

From concerns about health and safety, that lengthy commute and somewhat rusty social skills, after almost a year and a half of working from home, it’s normal to feel apprehensive about returning to the office.

Whether you’re feeling anxious or excited about the prospect, going back to the office is a big transition. Returning to a pre-pandemic workplace environment can take some preparation and a mindset shift. 

Here are our top tips for navigating a smooth transition back to the workplace.

Finding out your company’s return to work policy is a great place to start, as well as reaching out to your HR department to update you on any changes. This way you will know what to expect around in-office health protocols such as wearing masks, social distancing and etiquette in communal areas.
Many employers have now put hybrid work models in place. Others are letting employees decide if they want to work from home permanently or come in from time to time. Schedule time with your manager and explore the range of potential work options available to you -  whether that’s continuing to work remotely a few days a week, flexible hours, starting later or earlier to avoid peak commuting times, or even working from home full-time. 

To avoid increased anxiety on your first day back at the office, take some time to plan ahead. This can help you alleviate any feelings of stress and fear you may have. Identity what it is that is giving you the most anxiety - for example is it the thought of commuting again or meeting in groups.

You could practice your commute to see if the travel time has changed. To put your mind at ease, ask your employer what safety precautions they’ll have in place with regards to meetings. And most importantly, plan for personal time after work, such as a workout or dinner with friends. 

Although the morning commute will now be longer than it was from your bed to your kitchen table or home office, your journey to work can still be enjoyable. Create a playlist or download your favourite podcast if you are driving, or, if you are taking public transport, dedicate that time to unwinding and recharging.
Expect things to look and feel different in your workplace. If your office has been vacant for over a year, your work station may need some refreshing. Bring a plant to work or buy a new picture frame for your desk. This can help you feel more content in your workspace.
Try to keep up your healthy lockdown habits as you return to the hustle and bustle of “normal” life. Getting out for a daily walk of at least 30 minutes is a great habit to maintain. Can you cycle to work? Can you walk to the train station instead of driving? Or maybe you can start taking the stairs, instead of the lift.
As many of us return to work, one creature will surely feel our absence the most – our pet. After so much time at home, your pet may struggle with being separated from you for long periods of time. Make provisions to safeguard against separation anxiety by gradually getting your pet used to being alone for short periods of time, as well as finding adequate care for them during the workday.

Above all, being respectful of your colleagues’ boundaries at the office will help smooth the transition back to the office. People will have different comfort levels when it comes to returning to the workplace, and it is important to respect each other’s concerns.

There may be challenges associated with the return to work environment, and it’s normal if you are feeling some apprehension. However, with some forward planning you can make the transition a smooth one. 

If the return to office is making you feel anxious, why not check our  Expat Assistance Programme services. (included in with most plans).