5 Strategic Steps to Take on Your First Day Back in the Office

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Laura Berlinsky-Schine2.3k
May 29, 2024 at 1:7PM UTC

After a considerable amount of time away from the office — in some cases, a full year and a half — many employers are reopening their doors. For some, this comes as welcome news: They’re excited to return to face-to-face interactions after contracting serious Zoom fatigue and can’t wait to resume their schedules. For others, it’s a bit more nerve-wracking.

In some ways, the return to the office feels much like the first day at a new job. You’re no doubt anxious and wondering what you should expect.

There are ways to ease back into a brick-and-mortar workplace without feeling overwhelmed. Start by trying these five strategies.

1. Write down a schedule.

In the Harvard Business Review, Elizabeth Grace Saunders suggests mapping out a “first-day” schedule. 

“Think through every little detail that needs to happen to make the whole system work and put it on paper,” she writes. “You likely had many of these routines down to a science at the beginning of 2020, but after a year’s hiatus, you’ll need to consciously retrain your brain on how to complete all these little activities that are part of making your work schedule work.”

Consider all the details, large and small. Think about modes of transportation and any hiccups, such as traffic jams or train delays, that might affect your schedule. Remember to add in time for making lunch or ensuring you have the cash to pick something up. Factor in taking a showering and getting dressed, too.

2. Reintroduce morning rituals.

Many of our routines have gone out the window since early 2020. If you haven’t been going into the office, morning rituals may be one example. Think about the things you used to do to get ready for the day. Did you meditate? Go for a run? Make yourself breakfast? Read the newspaper? Whatever was typical or you then, reintroduce those activities now, so you’ll feel a sense of comfort and return to normalcy.

3. Reframe.

Clinical psychologist Holly Schiff promotes the idea of “radical acceptance,” an acknowledgment that you won’t be able to control things that are, well, beyond your control, but you can control how you feel about them. In this case, you don’t know when you’ll be asked to come into the office, and you may not have a hand in making the decision, but you can keep an open mind about it. For example, think about the opportunities a return to the office will bring, rather than focusing on the negative.

4. Meet with your manager and new colleagues.

There are very likely people you’ve been working with whom you may not even have met face to face (it’s been a LONG year and a half, after all). Take the time to get to know your colleagues by meeting with them in person or perhaps inviting them out to lunch.

Check in with your manager, too. It’s probably been a while since you’ve had the opportunity to discuss your work in person — if you have at all — and making the time to touch base will be refreshing for both of you.

5. Communicate.

Of course, communication, which has been critical throughout the pandemic, remains one of the best tools in your arsenal. Communicate with your coworkers and manager, not only about work-related issues but also about your own needs. 

“You will likely need to be your own best advocate when thinking about your mental health needs and comfort when returning to the workplace,” Andrew Seaman writes on LinkedIn.

Make sure you communicate with others in your office so you know their expectations and boundaries, too. This is a transitional period for everyone, and being open with one another will prove pivotal.

About the Career Expert:

Laura Berlinsky-Schine is a freelance writer and editor based in Brooklyn with her demigod/lab mix Hercules. She specializes in education, technology and career development. She also writes satire and humor, which has appeared in Slackjaw, Points in Case, Little Old Lady Comedy, Jane Austen’s Wastebasket and The Haven.

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