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Wellbeing: How to ensure a smooth transition back to the office

How can workers required to return to the office make the adjustment? We offer some advice.

Man working in an office at a computer. Image by Tim Sandle.
Man working in an office at a computer. Image by Tim Sandle.

For many people working at home has been the norm. For a large proportion, where permanent home working is not an option (or even a hybrid model of home working and office working) there are demands to return to the office.

For some, heading back to the office can feel overwhelming and all-too stressful. To help address this, there are some strategies that can help ease the transition back into the office.

These strategies are presented to Digital Journal readers by Nora Tobin, who is a performance enhancement and executive coach, as well as being CEO of Nora’s Naturals coffee.

Tobin explains the potential impact on mental wellbeing posed by the slide back to the desk, noting: “After over a year of working to adjust to the new normal of working at home, the opportunity to go back to work in the office brings up new stresses of transitioning, yet again.”

For affected individuals, see says: “If you are someone who is experiencing this anxiety, just know that you are not alone. In fact, it is completely normal and natural to be experiencing this stress. The pandemic overturned everyone’s lives and has brought on many long term and perhaps permanent changes to people’s lives in different ways. Overall, the extended lack of exposure to the office has led many to develop increasing levels of anticipatory stress about what the new normal will be like.”

To help employees to make the adjustment, Tobin has provided Digital Journal  with five tips to help ensure a smooth transition back to the office. These are:

TIP #1: Make a list of the benefits of going back to work in the office.

Creating a list of benefits for going back to work at the office can serve as a way to mentally prepare for the big, and quite uncertain transition you will be taking. Some benefits may include the opportunity to reconnect with one’s social networks and having fewer distractions that may increase one’s productivity. Others may be thankful to have a more solid boundary between work and home life. Overall, this list can be your positive reminder to keep pushing through whenever you feel overwhelmed transitioning back.

TIP #2: Create a routine of healthy habits in the transition stage.

You have the power to make time for things in your life that are important to you. If there’s anything that we should take away from the pandemic it’s that mental health is important. One may take small steps to create a healthy routine for themselves as they begin the transition back to working in the office, and this may look different for each individual. Some examples may be setting time to meal-prep healthy lunch options, going for walks in the mornings, or even just making sure you have that date night once a week with your significant other. Regardless of what those steps may be, take time to listen to yourself and take note of what has made you feel the most happy and healthy this past year.

TIP #3: Take on the transition one step at a time.

Going back to work in an office is nerve racking for many individuals who may not feel safe jumping back into a fully populated office or business center. Others may feel the pressure of having to rearrange their schedules to accommodate the transition back. Thankfully, many businesses have been providing the option to practice a hybrid model moving forward. Fast and drastic change can often feel overwhelming, so take advantage of the hybrid model and maybe work 3 days remotely out of your week to help you find that balance and time you need to adjust smoothly.

TIP #4: Be intentional in practicing what worked best for you while working at home and working at the office.

As mentioned before, taking the time to listen to yourself and identify what habits help make you feel happy and healthy are an important step in setting yourself up for success during this time of transition. Similarly, it is important to take note of what you liked and didn’t like from both working at home and in the office. Maybe you discovered that being around others motivates you to get more work done, or the opposite where working independently creates an environment where it’s easier for you to focus. Regardless of what habits you find to be noteworthy, being intentional in combining good habits from each setting may help you grow and improve in your career.

TIP #5: Be respectful to people’s boundaries.

The pandemic has made it clear that many people share strong, and sometimes clashing opinions, about how the pandemic has and should be handled. That being said, being respectful of people’s boundaries at the office will help make the transition back more smooth. While you cannot control how other people act, you do have the power to control how you act. Setting a good example of being respectful of the diverse opinions back at the office will hopefully make everyone feel a lot more comfortable during these still uncertain times.

Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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