Is In Person Work Out of Your Comfort Zone?

6 tips for going back to the office without stress

I have been living by the Atlantic Ocean for nearly 6 months outside of Lisbon, Portugal. When we moved here, a new friend challenged me to swim with her in the ocean three times per week…without a wetsuit! The average water temperature this time of year is 57 degrees which shocks your body when you first get in but after a few minutes you can enjoy a short swim. Cold water ocean swimming was just outside of my comfort zone when I started and now a few months into it I am very confident in the water.  I have been speaking with a number of clients recently about how going back to an office is taking them out of their comfort zone. It seems strange, but now that many of us are accustomed to working from home and have an office space/schedule set up around working in our exercise clothes, going into an office can be as challenging as swimming in cold ocean water.

Before the pandemic, in 2019, about 4 percent of employed people in the U.S. worked exclusively from home; by May 2020, that figure rose to 43 percent, according to Gallup. Among white-collar workers, the shift is stark: Before Covid just 6 percent worked exclusively from home, which by May 2020 rose to 65 percent.

NY Times

Getting fully dressed, commuting, seeing more than a few people at a time, and not having as much flexibility all adds up to getting out of your comfort zone. Taking on all of these “new” activities at once could make you feel like a kid going back to school after a long summer break, it can be overwhelming after many months at home. 

I would like to help ease the anxiety you feel going back into an office with a few quick tips:

  1. Understand that feeling anxiety is normal – our brains have become habituated to working from home and whether you prefer at home work or not, going back to the office is a new experience. Embrace that it is normal to experience some anxiety around your new work environment.
  2. Plan for it – where possible ease back into your in person schedule. Try going into the office a few days per week for the first month. Travel during non-commute hours if possible. Understand that you will feel tired at the end of your day and plan down time. Take frequent breaks throughout the day to get outside and experience nature.
  3. Pay attention – how do you feel about going back into an office?  How is your energy level throughout the day?  Does being in an office setting impact your productivity or satisfaction with your job?  Take time each day to check in with yourself and keep a journal to understand more about what is going on inside of you.
  4. Make adjustments that work for you and your family – get clear on what works for you and your family when going back to the office. Do you need more childcare or help with meal preparation? Are you planning time to connect with your family during daily transitions?
  5. Focus on what matters most and ask for what you need – if you found that at home work increased your productivity, then ask to stay home a few days a week to get your work done. Maybe you can have days in the office to work collaboratively and days at home to focus. If you want to pick your kids up from school or attend important events, then ask for flexibility to attend these special events. 
  6. Practice Self Care – take time each day to breathe deeply, get outside and transition from work to home life. Continue the self care practices you started at home including meditation, exercise, journaling and eating healthy foods. If you are going back into an office setting, focus on getting comfortable there before adding anything else to your life. Give yourself some grace and downtime and enjoy your transition back to work!

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