How To Readapt To Working In The Office Post-Lockdown
For the majority of 2020 and 2021, most of us have been working from home. Now that the cases are dwindling down and companies are allowed to operate as per normal, we are also expected to slowly transition back to working in the office. The thought of this might be daunting because we were just getting the hang of being productive at home. Fret not! As humans, we are incredibly adaptable, and with enough physical and mental preparation, we’re sure to get used to it again in no time. Here are a few things to be mindful of, or habits to put into practice, as we now readapt to working in the office post-lockdown:
1. Sleep and wake up earlier.
Your workstation is no longer right beside your bed (or your bed itself)! In fact, our morning commutes to the office might end up a lot more stressful than we remembered it to be. As such, rather than just rushing in the morning, getting stuck in traffic and arriving at the office feeling stressed or out of place, allocate time for a morning routine. Waking up early gives us time to mentally and physically prepare for the day. This can include having a good cup of coffee or doing a simple meditation exercise. Whip up a good breakfast and think through your day ahead – this allows you to manage your own expectations and be in the right mental state to deliver high-quality work.
Of course, in order to wake up early feeling fresh, you ought to sleep early too. If you are prone to insomnia, there are some behavioural changes that might need to be introduced. For example, putting your devices away at least an hour before bedtime or meditating.
2. Dress comfortably.
You might be tempted to rock up to the office with your 3-inch heels or suit up, but your body might not be ready for that. After a year of working in pyjamas, your body needs time to readjust. Dress appropriately according to your company’s dress codes and pick something that will still make you feel confident. However, if you have put on a bit of weight over the year, don’t feel the need to force yourself into clothes you might have outgrown just to look good (speaking from experience here!).
Also, don’t spend hours trying to pick the best work outfit (although I am often guilty of this) and end up late. Instead, you can try preparing a weeks’ worth of clothes in advance, iron them nicely and pair them with nice and comfortable accessories over the weekend. So, all you have to do is wake up, dress up and show up.
3. Schedule breaks.
You might suddenly feel pressured to glue yourself to the screen 24/7 because your bosses or colleagues are watching. However, our brains work better when it gets the rest it needs (it also needs to readjust to working on a chair and not the bed). Drink enough water, take regular toilet breaks, and schedule a short walk every two hours.
Also, your eyes need to rest often! Looking at digital devices for long periods of time causes eye strains and unpleasant symptoms. You can try applying the 20-20-20 rule: after 20 minutes of staring at the screen, look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
On a different note, it’s important to balance productivity and rest. I’m sure we all have a lot to catch up on with your colleagues. However, make sure to be mindful of time – you don’t want to get carried away and end up spending hours in the pantry having small talk. Instead, be intentional to schedule lunches with your colleagues and enjoy a good meal with them.
4. Find new ways to collaborate.
Although we’re back in the office, we still need to adhere to existing standards of procedures and maintain social distancing. This means that we need to discover other ways to collaborate and establish new norms. We can no longer cramp dozens of people in a tiny room to brainstorm, nor do we want to revert to online discussions when we have the office facilities. It’s time to get creative!
For example, inspired by Korean drama, Start-Up, you can introduce a brainstorming wall – where post-it notes are available for everyone to write down their random ideas and pin them to a wall. If you come across a note with opportunities to collaborate, you can simply reach out and schedule a meeting.
If you are a manager or HR personnel, be intentional about creating an environment where people can openly and transparently submit ideas or innovate. This could be in terms of improving the office’s physical environment by having whiteboards or sufficient tables and chairs or improving the office’s social environment by complimenting good ideas or rewarding innovation.
5. Check-in on others.
It’s been a difficult year for everyone – some might have lost loved ones, others might be experiencing financial struggles. Throw away your political agendas in the workplace and offer compassion and a helping hand. It is always helpful to know that you are not struggling alone. This can look like dropping a simple email to ask how their day is, or offering to help think through a problem they have been stuck with. We might feel the need to put up a strong facade, but the reality is that it is a tough transition for everyone. So, there’s no shame in being vulnerable.
Readapting is not easy, especially when the pandemic is still going on. Try your best at work, but also take care of each other by respecting boundaries, offloading each other’s burdens where possible, and extending kindness. Together, we can move forward towards an endemic future together.
If you are still working from home, check out this article on 5 practical ways to deal with work burnout amidst working from home!