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How to transition back to working in an office

May 13, 2021

After over a year of working from home, plenty of folks are ready and excited to go back into the office—but the transition back to #officelife can be a tricky one. Whether you’re genuinely excited, cautiously optimistic or flat-out nervous to get back in the office, we’ve got some tips and tricks to make your transition as seamless as possible.

Ease back at a reasonable pace

Everyone experienced (and is experiencing) lockdown differently; some moved in with friends or family members, some formed an external support bubble and some spent it alone. The one thing we all have in common is that lockdown changed our daily routine—for most of us, pretty drastically.

Transitioning back to an office is a major change for those who are used to working from the safety and comfort of their home. Without proper pacing, reopening the office could be…well, a lot to handle.

To help ease the transition, give your employees ample time to prepare (both physically and emotionally) to get back into an office routine. Stay in open communication about your expectations, new developments and how they’ll be affected.

Set realistic expectations

Following the first lockdown, many organizations experienced a dip in productivity. And odds are, we’ll see something similar when offices reopen. This doesn’t mean your team devalues accountability—rather, it’s a symptom of their changing work environment. New surroundings means new routines, and as a result, it might take a bit to get back to the way things were.

The majority of your employees haven’t seen each other in over a year. There’s going to be a lot of catching up to do, and that’s not a bad thing! Instead of viewing office chitchat as a productivity blocker, try to see it for what it is: your employees are bonding, and it will make them a better team. That’s not to say day-to-day accountabilities aren’t important anymore; but allowing your employees to reacquaint themselves with each other is a long-term investment that will ultimately benefit your organization.

Recognize that things have changed

We totally get the desire to sprint full-tilt toward the way things used to be. But the thing is, pretending that you’re going back to exactly the way things were before COVID can be pretty damaging.

Everyone in your company experienced some sort of upheaval from their day-to-day life at work. They also experienced their own unique struggles behind the scenes, and chances are, they were affected in ways you don’t even know about. Your team has changed in the past year, and because of that, you can’t go back to the exact way things used to be—but you can take this opportunity to grow toward something even better.

Work with your team to reexamine processes, and be open-minded about changes in light of your shared experiences. Things like flex hours, work from home days and new office layouts can go a long way in helping your team adjust, grow and ultimately thrive back in the office.

Not everyone will be comfortable going back (and that’s okay)

If there’s one thing the past year has taught us, it’s that flexibility is a necessity. Hard-and-fast plans to get back in the office can work, but they don’t leave much room for pivoting.

Chances are, you have team members who aren’t ready to go back to the office. This could be for any number of reasons—maybe they’re anxious about returning to work in-person, or maybe they’d just prefer to transition to working from home full time. No matter the reason, make sure your employees know you’re here to listen.

Getting feedback isn’t always easy, but it’s extremely important to ask for it now. Make sure your employees feel comfortable being honest about how they feel in regards to the transition so you know the best way to support them. The more transparent your communication is, the easier the transition will be.


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