4 Simple Steps to Survive Going Back to the Office (After Working from Home)
Going back to an office job after working from home can be tough.
You’re trading so much freedom and control for a set routine and office politics. No more lunchtime laundry, track pants, and tailoring your schedule to suit you.
Well, it turns out that you can keep some of the best parts of remote work – freedom, comfort and productivity – with a few simple tweaks to your routine.
Here’s the advice that will help you make a smooth transition to your new job situation – and enjoy the best of both worlds.
Tip 1: Adapt Your Routine to Build Better Habits
One of the best things about working in an office is that it gives your life structure.
Having a solid routine actually helps you to establish positive habits with less effort.
It’s like a framework that you can build more stuff on top of, rather than trying to build a structure from scratch.
Keep in mind that your morning routine is going to be turned upside-down, but there are some things you can do to make it way easier on yourself.
Here’s how to tweak your routine:
My routine is completely upended now that I need to dedicate three hours a day for transportation on days I need to go into the office.
David Reischer, 44, attorney and entrepreneur
Plan out your work wardrobe beforehand.
If you’ve been wearing leggings and hoodies for a while, you might have forgotten what people actually wear in offices these days. Pick out a couple of strong outfits that can be mixed and matched, and you’ll feel way more confident.
Give yourself an extra hour in the morning.
Normally leave yourself an hour to get ready before you leave the house? Set your alarm for 6:30am rather than 7:30am. Why? Well, for starters, your commute will always take longer than you think it will, especially when you’re getting used to a new commute. Google Maps is a liar. Oh, and I guarantee you’ll need that extra half-hour for things you might otherwise forget, like packing your lunch or finding your keys.
Use your commute well.
If you’ve always wanted to read more books, grab 2-3 recommended reads from your local library. Just 30 minutes a day adds up to around 50 books a year. Alternatively, a podcast related to your field or language learning course is a great way to take back those lost hours.
Tip 2: Manage Your Focus for Brilliant Productivity
One of the hardest things to adjust to when you return to on-site work is constant distractions.
At home, in peace and quiet, you can find intense focus. This helps you power through your work at a pace that just doesn’t happen in a busy office.
There are some easy things you can do that will protect your productive time while making the most of the friendly atmosphere.
Here they are:
I was so excited to have co-workers that the moment anyone asked me a question or made a remark, I was delighted to talk, usually without end — which of course resulted in me not getting my work done.
Abigail Conger, 31, marketing account director
Establish boundaries around your time.
Do you usually use the first hour of your day to catch up on blogs in your industry? Keep that time and guard it. That can be as simple as letting your colleagues know you prefer to work on big projects in the afternoon, so it doesn’t fill up with meetings.
This has got to be the biggest game-changer, allowing you to go into deep focus and isolation whenever you choose. Get decent, over-ear headphones that block out the sound. Extra points for noise cancelling!
Enjoy the opportunities for collaboration.
Collaboration and brainstorm are two of the best parts of working in a team, so make the most of them! If you get stuck, you can bounce ideas off a colleague. Schedule time for brainstorms and collaborative work.
The greatest challenge to an office setting is also the greatest benefit: the constant distraction of colleagues wanting to collaborate and brainstorm.
Andee Bingham, 39, editorial and grants manager
Tip 3: Tweak Your Environment to Make Yourself Comfortable
It’s hard to give up control over when and where you work.
When you’ve had the freedom to work whenever you like, with a space heater in front of you, and with all the snacks you could want, sitting at a new desk in someone else’s building can be a major drag.
While you don’t have a say over whether your office is open plan or cubicles, you can definitely make sure you’re comfy and happy at work.
Here’s what you can do:
Not being in charge of the temperature was a big change. When I worked from home, I sat right next to a space heater. In the office, although I am sure that it’s a perfectly normal temperature, I struggled. I brought a blanket and a sweater to keep at my desk.
Anne-Marie Hays, 31, marketer
Create your own privacy.
If you need to work on an important task, try putting up a little sign on your door that says ‘Do Not Disturb.’ If you don’t have a door, headphones can work just as well.
Find your perfect cozy level.
Space heaters are no longer an option. Bring a blanket to work if you must, three scarves, or a stash of jumpers – whatever gets you to your happy temperature.
Go somewhere else.
Maybe there’s an unused meeting room you can take a laptop for a few hours to find your quiet place. Make sure it’s okay with your manager and go for it – whatever you can do to take your focus back.
Working for ‘the man’ again requires me to be in a bland cubicle for eight hours a day, five days per week. I have no say when or where I work anymore. I wish I hadn’t picked a job in a cubicle. Maybe the transition would have been easier if I had gone with an agency that had an open work space environment and flextime.
Andee Bingham, 39, editorial and grants manager
Tip 4: Make Time for You – and Get Your Life Back
The unfortunate truth about working in an office is that you will have much less flexibility around errands, and doing chores at home.
The new reality is that you must build your life around your work hours.
On the other hand, this may end up being a blessing in disguise. According to Parkinson’s Law, work expands to fill the time available for its completion.
So if you give yourself lots of time for housework and errands, that’s how much time they will take up.
Here’s how to adapt:
I wish I had really considered how much of change it would be to no longer have a lunch hour at home to easily run an errand, go to a doctor’s appointment, or throw in a load of laundry.
Laura Barta, age 56, founder and president of a toy company
Simplify your chores and cooking.
With less time allotted for housework, you’ll have to simplify your chores. The house won’t be as spotless, and the meals you cook will be less complex. But you’ll be spending much less time on cooking and cleaning, which may be a win in itself.
Rein in your social life (temporarily).
Just until you get settled in the new job, that is. Make sure you’re getting enough sleep and taking time out for yourself.
Relish your newfound boundaries.
You might end up getting more done at work, and find home more relaxing – after all, the two will be much more separate now. Work starts and ends at clear times, which is actually great for your sanity.
Making the transition from working at home to working in an office is challenging, sure. There are a lot of adjustments to make, including to your expectations.
Are you facing a transition from home work to office work? Or have you in the past?
Either way, let us know by sharing on Facebook with your comment now.