So you’re going back to the office soon. When many Filipinos started working from home back in early 2020, most of us thought the setup would only last a few months — tops. And it took almost two years before offices started reopening (even with the looming threat of the Omicron variant). Whether or not the work-from-home setup made you more productive, going back to the workplace will take some getting used to, and can take a toll on your mental health. Here’s what you can do to cope.
Share your concerns
There are many reasons why you could be stressing out about going back to the office. There’s the social aspect (e.g. “How will I be able to navigate interacting face-to-face with coworkers again?”), the concerns about work-life balance (e.g. “Will I still be able to preserve the balance I achieved while working from home?”), and since the pandemic is still a very real thing, there’s safety (e.g. “Is my workplace taking this pandemic seriously?”).
These are all very valid concerns, and if you haven’t already, voice them out to your manager or HR department. This will let them have a better idea of your needs and can help them make more well-informed decisions during this transition.
Make a list of the positives
Remember the first months of working from home, when you were struggling to be productive in the same place you associated with relaxation? Remember all the things you missed about the office? Now that you may be dreading going back, it’s a good time to list down all the good things you’re looking forward to, whether it’s your office aircon, workplace gossip, or finally meeting that cute coworker you’d only ever seen on Google Meet.
Go back your old rituals
What was your morning routine like pre-pandemic? To make your transition to the office smoother, don’t wait until the night before your first day at the office before adjusting your routine. Start going to bed and waking up earlier — as if you’re going to travel to the office.
Update your wardrobe
Let’s be real: NONE of us are looking forward to wearing pants again. But don’t let that bring you down. Sure, you’re probably gonna miss your shorts and sando combo, but remember how great you looked when you dressed up for work? Help yourself adjust by dressing up for work even before you have to show up at the office. And for extra motivation, you could even treat yourself to new accessories or clothes — just think of your back-to-office OOTDs!
Do a dry run
When was the last time you went to your office? Is your route going to the office going to be the same? Has the traffic situation changed? How is commuting different now? Has your office relocated?
So you’re not blindsided on Day 1, plan out your route beforehand. If your company allows it, you could even travel to the office before the big day to take a look at how much things have changed since the last time you were there.
Communicate your boundaries
Now that you’re preparing to go back to the office, it’s time to identify the boundaries you’ll need and how you can effectively communicate them. Will you want to practice physical distancing and ask others to stay six feet apart? Are you ready to talk about what you experienced during the pandemic? These needs may be difficult to verbalize, so you can write them down and practice saying them in front of a mirror.
Keep in mind that your coworkers will also have their own boundaries you’ll need to respect. While others may be excited about going back to the office, others may be less enthused. Some may find interacting with others again exhausting. Each of your coworkers will have their own concerns and may also be struggling with the adjustment, so by communicating your boundaries, you’ll also be making it easier for them to communicate theirs.
Ask yourself: Is my stress *REALLY* about going back to the office?
This period of transition is the perfect time to reevaluate how you feel about your job. Do you get stressed when you think about commuting to the office, or is it about the work itself? If your anxiety lasts the whole day and seems to be more about your job rather than your work setup, that may be your cue to update your resume and find a job that’s better for your emotional health.
Be kind to yourself
(REMEMBER: Stress is ~*normal*~)
Contrary to what many online articles may say, there’s no way to make this transition totally stress-free. Stress is unavoidable. In fact, any change in our life — even the good ones — often results in stress. It’s how we deal with that stress that spells all the difference.
Don’t expect perfection. If you had an awkward conversation with a colleague or feel like you’re messing things up more than usual, keep in mind that this is all normal. This is an uncomfortable time, and many of your colleagues are probably feeling the same way. Take it one day at a time, and speak about your stress with people you trust — whether it’s a coworker, a friend, or a professional therapist.
Are you heading back to the office this year? How are you coping?