Transitioning back to the office after working from home. 

We’ve been sheltering in place or quarantined now for several months. Some of us have started new habits and some of us are ready to go back to the office. We’re all facing so many questions. How can I be efficient working from home with all these distractions everyday? How can I keep my motivation up? What should I do differently when I finally go back to the office. Will it be safe?

Here’s a list of tips and recommendations to help you relieve some of the uncertainty:

  1. Stick to a routine.

This is more important than you might think. Adhering to a routine helps us foster habits that match what we really want to do and be. By creating a schedule we’re able to block out chunks of our day for specific tasks  for work as well as for personal errands. This helps us separate our personal time from our “work time”. When we set up specific times for things, we’re less likely to push them off for later — especially once they become a habit. A solid daily routine is good for your mental health. You’ll feel more at peace knowing where you need to be, and when.

To help prepare mentally for going back to the office, use the same routines at home as you would going into the office. Wake up, take a shower, dress for work and mentally go into “work mode”.

People accustomed to working at home often employ this little trick: After getting up and showering, dressing and doing their usual morning routine, they’ll actually head out the front door as though leaving home for work. After a short or longer walk, they re-enter as though entering their place of work. There is a psychological effect of leaving and returning with a mindset that they are now in their work day. Same thing can work at lunchtime and days’ end, to create a sense of completion and separation between the work day and the non-work day. 

  1. Take breaks.

It’s important to take time to recharge, change your environment and get some fresh air. Working for long stretches without breaks leads to stress and exhaustion. Taking breaks refreshes the mind, replenishes your mental resources, and helps you become more creative. If you find it hard to take a break at home with family around, go outside or find a quiet place.

This will be important when returning to the office as well, as there will likely be a lot of uncertainties and new routines at work. Take time to reflect and remind yourself of the new normal, and keep scheduling breaks so you don’t get overwhelmed.

  1. Connect with co-workers or friends.

Connecting with colleagues and friends is more important than you think. We normally spend most of our time in close proximity to our colleagues, which makes it easier to stay in sync more effortlessly. Now with the proximity gone, we need to be mindful to keep those communication lines open. Luckily today, there are tons of tools available to help us with video calls, digital chats and even digital whiteboards or collaboration programs. We’re going to depend on these more in the future, however this social distancing protocol evolves.

To prepare for going back to the office, be mindful of various people’s situations. We’re all experiencing this crisis differently, and some people will be more affected than others. Keep your distance and be aware of your colleagues’ moods and reactions. Be aware of new rules and routines around the office. Communicate to avoid any misunderstandings or disputes.

  1. Stay focused.

You might not be home alone. Two adults working from home is a new scenario in many families, and homeschooling your children adds to the complexity. A big challenge we all face is how to stay focused in this new environment. This goes hand in hand with the routine you establish. Create the routine where you can focus on your work. Support each other to manage simultaneous virtual meetings. The key to your productivity is to get uninterrupted time for your task-driven work. If you can achieve it now, it will be a critical asset for your productivity in the future.

Keep this in mind when returning to the office: how can you stay focused on your task with new rules in place. Something that will help with that is developing business continuity to not get distracted or disrupted in your daily work.

  1. Support each other.

We know no matter how much you try, this new situation can feel stressful. In times like these it is important to remember that we are in this together. Even if your “new colleagues” aka family members may drive you crazy at times, they can also be your biggest support system. Find a new normal that benefits all of you, check in with each other and communicate. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help if needed. We are all learning.

This will be even more important when you go back to the office. During crisis we all react differently. It’s important to show respect and sensitivity. Ask your colleagues how they are doing and build up your community. Ask your leaders for input about how to act.

Last but not least, be patient. We will get through this.