It seems like eons ago that mostly everyone, everywhere was working from a physical business or office location, eight hours a day, Monday through Friday. We had our routines down, coffee shop addresses in the GPS, shortcuts to work memorized, saw colleagues face-to-face every day and collaborated on projects side-by-side in real time.

Enter Covid. (You know all about that.)

During that time, we all made the pivot, leaving the office to work from home – and juggle all that went with it. (Who else had a running count of the number of times you said, “You’re on mute” every day?)

There is no question, the professional world has changed permanently. Many companies have made the switch to sustained remote work, while others have adopted a hybrid model (a mix of days in the office and working remotely). In recent months, however, we’ve seen yet another shift in that many companies are returning to their original on-site model, requiring staff to come back to the office.

Let’s be honest: Some people love working onsite and some don’t. Depending on where you sit (literally), you likely have strong opinions about remote vs. hybrid vs. fully onsite work arrangements. Whether your company is staying with a remote work model or determining that employees will return to the office and reestablish a daily or hybrid presence there, this two-part blog series will focus on tips to help you get ready for, readjust to and thrive at work – no matter where you spend your work week – onsite, hybrid or remote.

In this first part of the series, the focus is on onsite and hybrid work environments.

Return to me: Preparing for life in the office

1. New season. New you.

No, it’s not a high fashion slogan, but this is a kind of new beginning. If you’ve been working mostly from home for the past three+ years, take stock of your wardrobe, and if it’s due for a refresh, update it and your personal brand to boost your confidence. Select work accessories you’ll need every day for the office (computer bag, chargers, organizational tools, etc.), and meaningful items to decorate your workspace.

2. Ease into it.

When you return to the office, regardless of how you feel about it, you’ll need time to adjust. The comical aspect is you might realize your business social skills may be a little more rusty than you think. Give yourself and others a minute to adjust to all that goes with being together again and working in the office – commuting, parking, getting settled, juggling responsibilities, attending meetings, office sounds, interruptions and conversations. A little grace goes a long way.

3. Embrace the atmosphere.

If you are an extrovert or a people person, this is the moment you’ve been waiting for. No more being separated from the crowd. You’ll be back in your element, taking charge, working alongside your colleagues and potentially meeting new ones in person for the first time. Experience the energy and excitement of reconnecting with everyone. Enjoy the social times – the happy hours or celebrations for a job well done. Those moments can solidify the feeling of connection with your colleagues, and they play differently in person as opposed to on screen.

For introverts and those who prefer the remote work atmosphere, remember that your colleagues need your input and the value you bring to the team. Those one-on-one conversations build bonds, and it’s always a plus to get to do your best work with the support of a team. As you make the adjustment, protect your time, build in some “quiet hours” or blocks of do-not-disturb work time to help you maintain your energy and focus. Use your breaks to recharge, enjoy some music or podcasts, and be proactive about giving yourself a chance to adjust to the in-office environment in a way that is life-giving rather than energy-draining.

4. Request a one-on-one meeting with your supervisor.

If it’s been a significant amount of time since you and your supervisor have spoken in person (virtual meetings don’t count in this case!) and you don’t already have ongoing individual meetings, why not request a one-on-one meeting with them to catch up? You’ll be amazed at what it does for rapport, plus it’s a good time to reconnect on professional priorities. Talk about where your organization is headed, what’s on the horizon, how you can help your teammates and contribute to the overall success of your department.

Share with your supervisor about professional development activities you’ve participated in while you’ve worked remotely. Have you completed professional training courses while you’ve been working offsite? Learned a new skill? Volunteered with a local charity? Take this opportunity to reconnect and reset the tone for your in-office experience with your boss going forward.

5. Breathe.

After the initial adjustment period wears off (euphoria for some, a big re-learning curve for others), you’ll fall into a regular cadence of day-to-day office life again. The honeymoon phase will wear off. That’s normal. When that time comes, give yourself time to breathe, pace yourself and do the next task in front of you. 

For those who have a slower ramping up time, you may hit your stride a few weeks after your colleagues do and, as a result, you may find yourself more energized for being in a solid onsite routine again. That may be the time you can lend support to team members who need it.

Everyone will have their own ways of navigating office life 2.0. As you get ready for this next phase of your work life and environment, you can take these practical steps to prepare yourself to thrive in day-to-day life at the office. 

The truth is, though, we’ve been down a life-changing road the past few years. Give yourself space to make the adjustment, knowing that you’re not the only one who’s realigning their outlook based on their own experiences and expectations. Focus on the good, get support when there are challenges and trust that you have the ability to thrive – no matter where your workspace may be. What you bring to your role and organization matters. You’re poised for fresh success, and we can’t wait to see what you’ll make of the opportunity.