Advice on the big return to the office

Returning to the office soon? There are a couple of things you can do to create a better workday in the office, says NIAMH BRADY, a productivity coach
Advice on the big return to the office

It’s normal for some people to be excited about this while others are feeling anxious. It will take a while to find our feet again, says Niamh. Picture: Stock

IF you have been working remotely since the beginning of the pandemic, you might be one of the thousands of people who will be returning to the office in the coming weeks and months.

Although the building may look the same, office life has been changed forever.

Many companies are choosing a hybrid work model, where employees spend some of their time in the office and the remainder from home. Whether it’s one day a week or five, this is another change in the way we work. It’s normal for some people to be excited about this while others are feeling anxious. It will take a while to find our feet again, and that’s ok. In the meantime, there are a couple of things you can do to create a better workday in the office.

Before COVID-19, I spent between two and three hours in the car most days. While I doubt many of us are looking forward to sitting in traffic again a few times a week, you can transform this commute time into a better experience. Listening to podcasts, audiobooks, or new music are all great ways to make the most out of your journey to work. You can also use some of this time to complete the following sentence: “If I do nothing else today, I will….” This brings your focus to the most important work to be done, even if there is a lot on your plate.

Disconnecting from work is one of the main challenges of working from home. The days you are in the office allow you to use the journey home to decompress and draw a line under the workday.

One of the most effective ways to do that is through reflection. A simple way to do this is to think about how the day went for you and if there is anything you would do differently tomorrow to make it better.

Reflection is proven to support not only wellbeing but also productivity. When we give ourselves the space to think about what has happened during the day, we make better decisions about what to do next.

ADVICE: Niamh Brady
ADVICE: Niamh Brady

One of those decisions may be where you are going to grab lunch the next day. Eating somewhere other than your kitchen table is one of the perks of working outside the home. In preparing to return to the office, it’s important to think about both the job to be done and ways to make the day more enjoyable.

Whether it is eating out, returning to your old lunchtime running route, or getting your favourite cup of morning coffee, rediscover your favourite things about working where you do. Perhaps this is even an opportunity for you to try something new. You can also look at improving the workday itself by answering a simple question. What is working well right now?

This allows you to bring the best parts forward in an intentional way. Think about what is working well for you in the following areas: your routine, your communication with others, your ability to do different tasks, your overall productivity, and your wellbeing. Can you work in the same or a similar way on the days you are in the office? What would you need to do to make this happen?

Regardless of how productive you have been while working from home, you have probably faced some challenges as well. And although this might seem like the list of things that will be “fixed” when you go into the office, that’s not necessarily the case. For example, if one of your challenges is spending a lot of time on social media, working at a different desk won’t suddenly make those distractions disappear. Rather than expecting everything to change when you change location, decide what proactive steps you can take to improve these areas.

Finally, give yourself space to adjust. You are not “going back” to the office as you know it. You might find you are more tired at the end of the day.

You may crave some alone time after working alongside your colleagues in person rather than seeing them on your screen.

Returning to the office might make you question whether the job and company are still the right fit for you. This is all completely normal.

We have been through so much over the last 16 months, and it impacts every aspect of our lives, including work. If you do nothing else in preparation for returning to the office, I recommend you borrow my mantra. Be real, be honest, be kind and be a team.

Stay well and have a better workday.

Niamh Brady is a Productivity Coach, creator of the “A Better Workday” programme and author of Remote Working Essentials.

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