The past year brought unexpected challenges to the way businesses operate and how we work, but after all this time, we’ve sort of got used to it. It hasn’t been an easy transition, but with collaboration software coming a long way, people have been getting by. Some employees, however, have found that they are merely surviving while working from home, rather than thriving.
Some of us have extra responsibilities that we’ve had to take on since working from home like childcare and home schooling. Others are craving a return to the office because we miss the social interaction with our colleagues. What is most true is that the lines between work life and home life have been blurred, employees are working longer hours and skipping lunch breaks. With less differentiation, work worries are slipping more into what is supposed to be our relaxation time.
So then, many of us are excited to be back in the office and regain a sense of normality, but the transition shouldn’t be underestimated. As difficult as it was to adjust at the start of lockdown, going back to the office could prove just as challenging.
Dealing with social anxiety
One good thing to come out of the pandemic has been the increasing conversation around mental health. This time has been a struggle for many and talking about it is much more widely accepted than before, in and out of work.
For most of us, we’ve only spoken to our colleagues over Zoom or Teams, and we’ve barely seen our friends – it’s understandable that we’re a little out of practice. Although socialising is an exciting prospect, social anxiety is a real concern for some. What do I say? How do I act? You’ll hopefully be glad to hear that most people are in the same boat. If you are feeling the pressure, experts say that focusing on others will help get you out of your head and into the conversation.
Check in with your colleagues to see how they are doing; they’ll appreciate it, and you will feel better knowing that others are having difficulty too. If you feel the need, request an open chat with a boss and they’ll likely be happy to listen and work with you to find a solution that works for everyone.
Adapting to the office environment
As mentioned earlier, working from home has been a different experience depending on a person’s individual circumstances. Some of us have found that we aren’t as productive when we are working in our home office – it’s understandable. Blurred lines between work and home can make it just as difficult to lift your spirits before work as it does to wind down after work. So, getting back to the office will see a sharp increase in productivity, right? Potentially, but there are considerations – for a lot of people, the way they work has changed.
It has been predicted that offices will take on a much more open plan layout upon our return. Being locked into your desk has been replaced with the freedom to take your laptop all around your house. That speaks to something we have always championed at UrbanWorkSpace: creativity. When thinking about the layout of your office, more options to sit, stand and move about could be great for employee productivity.
When we were all in the office, we were probably a lot better at blocking out distractions. Without the office hubbub, it makes sense that that skill has faded somewhat. All of the stimuli that an office provides, be it office chats or simply hearing someone typing an email, could be overwhelming at first, so don’t expect to come flying out of the gate on the first day. Allow yourself the time to adjust and try out some things to help avoid distractions.
If you have the space, consider moving to a quieter area of the office when you have to really knuckle down and get your head in a project. Alternatively, if you are working on a hybrid model where your time is split between the office and home, you might be better off leaving the tasks that require more focus to a day when you’re at home. Apart from that, it can be really useful to turn off notifications on your phone and computer while you’re at work, so you don’t get led astray by pesky emails. Whatever your choice, go easy on yourself at the beginning and don’t expect the world.
You’ll get used to it
Most of us look back on office working fondly as a time when company culture was stronger, we socialised more, and work life didn’t bleed into home life too much. Lockdown has given us time to realise the importance of offices and we’re all eager to get back. The key to thriving when you get back to the office is recognising that it will be difficult. By doing this and not being too hard on yourself, you’ll be back to your old self before you know it.