After a year of working from home, going into the office may look different than it did pre-pandemic. To help the process run smoothly, here are eight steps you can take to prepare for in-office life (again).
1. Familiarize yourself with your new office guidelines.
That first day back may be hectic — so it's best to know what to expect first.
Be sure you can answer the following questions:
- Will you be expected to wear a mask?
- Will you be expected to keep a six-foot distance from your peers?
- If you've been vaccinated, will you be sharing your vaccination status with your employer?
- Has your desk space or office layout changed?
- Are you expected to be back in-office full time right away? If not, how many in-office days will you have each week?
- Are there any other policy changes that may impact your day-to-day?
2. Take appropriate precautions to keep everyone safe.
If you're not vaccinated, it may be a good idea to get tested before going back to the office.
3. Ask yourself what social norms you're comfortable with — and set boundaries where needed.
If going from social distancing to handshakes makes you uncomfortable, then that's fine. Just communicate it with your colleagues. (And if someone doesn't feel comfortable with something, please don't pressure them, joke about it, or ask why.)
4. Remember your "keys," whatever that may mean.
After a year away from the office, what was once second nature may now feel like a foggy memory. It may be worth it to double check that you have the information and objects you'll need to access your workspace. For example, do you remember your computer passwords? Do you know where your keycard is?
5. Stock up on your essentials.
After being surrounded by the comforts of home for so long, returning back to the office may be a shock at first. Make this transition easier by bringing some creature comforts, such as hand sanitizer, extra snacks, or a sweater.
6. Need more flexibility? Speak up.
To say the very least, the pandemic has shaken things up — and your responsibilities may have changed. If you need some extra flexibility, talk to your manager and see if you can work out an understanding moving forward.
7. Check your self-expectations at the door.
It's not fair to yourself to expect a seamless transition to 100% productivity right out the gate. Be gentle with yourself — and try not to bite off more than you can chew.
8. Reach out for help if you need it.
This last year has been hard, and it's okay not to be okay. Don't be so focused on your next step that you forget to take care of yourself. Familiarize yourself with your employer's mental health benefits, and make some appointments if you need extra support. Remember, mental health is just as important as physical health.
With some extra preparation, patience, and flexibility, you'll find yourself back in the flow in no time. Welcome back!
HR Leaders — looking for your own return-to-office tips? Check out our HR leaders' office reopening checklist.