There might be a number of reasons why you've had a break from the office. Whether you're transitioning back from working from home after Covid, you've taken time off for childcare, to care for a relative, or for any other reason, if you're worried about returning to the office environment, we've pulled together some tips to help with the change.
The shift to hybrid and flexible working
If you haven't started back at work yet and you're feeling nervous, you might want to speak with your boss and see if a hybrid-working model could work for you to ease you back into things. In post-pandemic life, employers are becoming a lot more open to allowing you to work from home more often, and in most cases, you have a right to request flexible working patterns.
There's also plenty of evidence to support the idea that working from home can be just as productive as coming into the office, if not more. In a recent survey by the BBC, over half the women respondents who had been working from home during Covid felt that this shift to WFH would help them progress their careers.
Thanksben.com also have a brilliant guide to making remote working work for you.
Returning to work if you've loved working from home during lockdown
How to negotiate permanent remote working?
You can negotiate more than just your salary with your manager....
Don't diminish your personal needs or concerns for working from home
- Whatever your reasons for wanting to continue working from home, whether this is at-home commitments like children, caring or pets, your own mental or physical health and wellbeing, a time-consuming and exhausting commute, or just that you are more productive at home, make your personal needs heard and known.
Consider your manager's needs
- Think about your manager's concerns, which might include your expected levels of productivity, as well as potentially keeping a 'team-feeling'.
- This may require some compromise such as agreeing to work one day of the week in the office or committing to more regular Zoom calls.
- If your main concern with returning to the office is nerves about Covid-19 still lingering, then raise your concerns with them. Feeling nervous is totally fine and your boss should respect these feelings and provide reassurance on safety procedures.
- If you feel that your office isn't doing enough to protect you and others, then definitely raise this with your boss, as they should be doing the most they can to make everyone feel comfortable on a day-to-day basis.
Remember the good things...
Being away from the office and having home comforts can make you forget all the benefits of working in an office.
If you do need to return, you might find you benefit from...
Fewer non-work distractions
- You won't be distracted by non-work distractions like the doorbell ringing, or household members being around or noisy.
Separating work and personal life
- Unless you have your own office space at home (lucky you if you do!), then it can be easy to merge your professional and personal spaces together and find it difficult to fully shut off from work. Returning home after a day at the office can feel a lot more enjoyable when you know that you don't have to do any work once you're home.
- You might be surprised at how much more engaged you can feel by bouncing ideas off of people in real-life and not just on Zoom. This will help you feel more seen and heard, and contribute to a great team culture, which you might not have at home.
Using your commute productively
- Commutes can be the main reason why a lot of people choose to work from home if they can, however planning how to spend this commuting time can make all the difference. Downloading podcasts to listen to on your commute can not only be therapeutic, but educational and inspiring. Transforming your commute into 'me-time' can be key to enjoying your days at the office.
What if permanent remote working is off the cards?
If your boss and company are unwilling to compromise for permanent remote working for you, then think about whether this is the job you really want.
If you're needed back in the office permanently, consider whether your commute is really making you unhappy and if returning to the office is a dealbreaker for you, and if so, think about whether it's time to start shopping around for similar roles in other companies that could offer you the perks you're looking for.
Returning to the office after maternity/paternity leave
Returning back to the office after maternity or paternity leave can feel scary, especially when so much of your time will have been spent with your newborn and/or other children at home. Whether you're excited or apprehensive to come back, it can be intimidating trying to pick up where you left off.
Most parents will resume normal working in baby steps, easing in with hybrid-working or just doing a couple of days a week at first.
Top tips if you're feeling nervous
Try to accept that having a few nerves is perfectly normal
- Communicate with your loved ones if you're feeling nervous, and share your feelings and issues - a problem shared is a problem halved, after all.
Be gentle with yourself
- Reset your expectations of yourself - comparing yourself to others can be particularly unhelpful. Everyone is different, and it's OK to manage the change your own way.
- Don't push yourself too hard to return to the pace of work that you were operating at before you went on leave. Your boss shouldn't be expecting this of you, and should allow you some time to build up a rhythm into your old flow.
Reconnect with colleagues
- It can be really helpful to rebuild those connections with trusted colleagues in the run-up to your return to work, even if it's a quick zoom call or meeting up for a coffee. This can help build confidence for that first step back into the office.
Talk to your manager and the HR team
- It's always good to be honest with your manager if you're feeling apprehensive about the return, they will often be able to make suggestions that may help you take those first steps back...and you may also want to speak to the person responsible for employee wellbeing - there may be support mechanisms that you can take advantage of that you're not aware of.
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