How to prepare for your first day back in the office

For a select few of us, the pandemic may have resulted in a permanent move to remote work, emailing clients from a picturesque Cornish hideaway. For everyone else, we’re likely to be heading back to the office at least part of the time.

But over the last few months, office life has changed and so have we. So what do you need to know before you dig out your work shoes from the back of the wardrobe and give them a polish? We searched out some expert views to help you hit the ground running.

Run through your routine

Covid-19 upended our lives and forced us to rapidly adapt. Unpicking all of that will take a little effort. Time management coach Elizabeth Grace Saunders suggests visualising your day from start to finish and making a list of everything you need to do, whether it’s prepping lunch, family responsibilities, or your evening routine. “Think through every little detail that needs to happen to make the whole system work and put it on paper,” she says – and then check for snags like any change in the train timetables since you last commuted. Then create a checklist to prevent unnecessary stress on the day.

Connect with colleagues in advance

Face-to-face, spontaneous interactions with colleagues are one of the big motivators for returning to the office for many. But while the virus continues to circulate, they can be a little fraught and awkward. Organisational psychologist Clair Reynolds Kueny tells LinkedIn News that teams should have a conversation in advance about what kinds of social interactions people are comfortable with, to set some ground rules and reassure each other. “A lot of people are going to want to be getting back into the office, but a lot of people are unsure,” she says. “There is going to need to be space for people to decide for themselves how to connect with people.”

Schedule time with the boss

A fresh start is a good time to talk about new priorities. So several experts suggested arranging a meeting with your manager in your first week. “Make it beneficial for your boss to meet with you,” says career coach Mimi Bishop, who suggests offering to discuss how to make life easier during the transition. You can also use this time to be clear about your own needs if the impact of the pandemic means you need some extra flexibility, recruitment expert Jennifer Tardy tells Fast Company.

Manage your anxiety

We’ve all been through a traumatic experience, so it’s only natural for some people to feel a bit of anxiety with the return to busier offices. “Try to focus on the benefits, like increased social interaction and improved productivity,” writes life coach Caroline Castrillon in Forbes magazine. “By maintaining a positive outlook, setting personal boundaries, and practicing self-care, you’ll be able to ease the tension and make a smoother transition.” Try not to put too much pressure on yourself – and if you do feel intense anxiety or struggle with daily tasks, you may want to talk to a professional, she suggests.

Focus on the future

Prompting yourself to think about your hopes can be a good way to manage the uncertainty of transition, suggests leadership consultant Ron Carucci. He suggests asking yourself what you would say a year from now if someone asked how living through the pandemic changed you for the better. “This pandemic will change the world in ways we’ve yet to understand. Many of the unknowns ahead represent extraordinary opportunity, and we each get to decide what part we play in that unfolding story,” he says.