The unchartered territory that is the return to the office
Love it or hate it a return to the office on a part-time or full-time basis is inevitable for a lot of employees. While some companies will facilitate a hybrid working model, it still means one thing for a lot of employees…the dreaded swipe of the fob to gain access through those frightening big doors of the office.
So what’s on the other side? Trepidation? Relief? The big fluffy monster out of Monsters Inc.? There is no monster under your desk…just the fear that you have unnecessarily allowed to creep up inside of you.
Believe it or not there might actually be compassion awaiting you! Just like the pandemic we are all going through this together…we might not have been sailing the same boat over the past 17 months but we were definitely weathering the same storm.
Yes, we now have to remember how to set our alarms (might have to buy a new one just for instructions!), yes, we have to prepare our lunches, pull on trousers that we hope still fit us and dust off our uncomfortable shoes. And remember as you leave home, give your loved ones a hug and kiss and remove the dog hairs from your mouth as you walk to the car. But more importantly remember this day was inevitable and your colleagues and managers are going through it as well.
Remember, the apprehension of adjusting to working from home? Well unfortunately for some it’s coming again. For others who have been struggling with isolation it’s a welcome relief to get back into the office to see friendly faces (okay every office has some unfriendly ones as well!), engage in banter, or have access to free coffee, tea and toilet roll! Others may feel conflicted.
There will always be pros and cons to every situation in life and this is just another one. Never fear asking others how they feel…it might be good for you and your colleagues to discuss how you feel instead of letting it build up inside you. Talk to your manager…tell them if you are apprehensive and why…but remember that manager is also a person who could be struggling with the return as well.
Ask your manager/employer what adjustments they have made to the office to make it safe for you to return if you are not comfortable with returning for health reasons. Flexibility will be key…on both your company’s part and yours. Every relationship is built on some give and take and the same goes here. Your company may have gone above and beyond to safeguard your return to the office, so don’t dismiss them with a ‘they’ve no idea, they don’t care’ approach. It’s not healthy to be negative.
Don’t add to your already high stress levels by expecting a rush back into the old office norm of how things were done. Appreciate, respect and expect that there will be changes. There are no golden rules on returning to the office, there are no set guidelines to follow. Why? Because none of us have been here before. This is unchartered waters for everyone. There may be hiccups and things you don’t agree with but instead of going around bitching about them to anyone who will listen speak to your manager. This is not the time to take to social media. Everyone is tired of trolls and keyboard warriors at this stage. And Karens!
Want to know why it’s important for your company to get people back to the office? Then ask them. Companies are not making haphazard decisions to return to the office. We’ve all enjoyed the freedom of not commuting, the walks, having our furry friends to hug when you are having a moment, and your manager might be no different!
And remember not everything works first go! Your company might have to adjust as it charters these new waters as well. Yes, we are all human and make mistakes (some more than others…as I look at my reflection in my screen!) so remember the adjustments we encountered when we started to WFH can happen again.
There is no zero risk involved in returning to the office…just like everything in life. One thing we’ve had to learn during the pandemic is that circumstances are likely to evolve. Some we can try and control, some we can’t.
Also remember compassion is an anecdote for anxiety. Giving it as well as receiving it lifts up the giver. If there’s one thing to be said for the pandemic it’s that we have all learned to recognise stress and anxiety and to talk about how we feel and our mental health. Returning to the office is not an end to this. No vaccine will take away what we have gone through…the fears, the grief we’ve encountered, pandemic fatigue…the fear of the unknown.
Take one day at a time…and one step at a time as you walk through those doors to your sanitised desk. And as always stay safe, stay sane and stay in your lane as you navigate your way around the office!