Transitioning Back into the Office Post-Pandemic

TSP • @myTSPnet


Over a year into the pandemic and the remote working world, a return to normalcy seems to be approaching. While there is hope underway, it’s important to take a moment to reflect on the past year, as all of our lives were upended, and we were expected to adjust accordingly. Now is the time to discuss the lessons we have learned over the past year and apply those to our lives and organizations as we return to the office.

In the midst of all this chaos, many of us are struggling to find balance in our lives. Being out of the office and working remotely was a huge transition. As can be expected, the rate of anxiety and depression and feelings of isolation heightened dramatically during this past year. Many are experiencing burnout and zoom fatigue.

However, there were some positive elements about staying home, particularly for workers who took charge of the situation and persevered. Some people turned the past year into a reset, taking time to recharge and reconnect with families. Others exercised more freedom in how they work and how they live. This time has shown us the significance of creating boundaries and taking care of your health and wellbeing.

What does all this mean? As we step into a post-pandemic world, we’re faced with a new challenge and a new adjustment to what we once considered normalcy. Not only will we see the repercussions and long-term effects of the pandemic, but we will also deal with the personal effects it had on our being. It’s important to remember the major shifts that occurred in our world all within a short timeframe — it’s okay to feel scared and anxious.

The shift from working in an office every day to working from home all online was a complete adjustment, whether positive or negative. In any case, everyone adapted to the best of their abilities. Now we are faced with yet another shift as many will have to abandon their at-home office and return to their organization's office. But this return might not look as we would expect.  

We’ll ask ourselves: How do we keep ourselves safe while returning to the real world? How will we make another big transition? Do I even want to leave the comfort of my home anymore? The anxiety of returning to an in-person lifestyle and traveling again is very real and very daunting. This new shift is a defining moment, one where another transition is fast approaching, one that we most likely will not be familiar with once again.  

Having a sense of belonging and making connections with others can help with the anxieties that will come with the new transition. Having a community at work that you can trust will create a new sense of purpose. To create a purpose, this community should have three mutual characteristics: comfort, connectedness, and a shared contribution towards a common goal.

To cultivate this type of community, leaders need to strengthen the purpose and emphasize the who, what, why, and how of what everyone is doing and working towards. As leaders, it's crucial to acknowledge your teams’ feelings and needs, and make every individual feel like they have a place and meaningful purpose in the workplace. Being flexible is also vital in this new transition.

Rather than making the return to in-person working a daunting thing that causes anxieties, focus on doing something to help alleviate these feelings. As workplaces try to ensure safety and comfort in the office, the work itself should follow this mentality.

Consider the ways you can ensure wellbeing in the workplace and foster a community that respects boundaries. How can your workplace incorporate work with wellbeing? Think about how you can create a safe space for both physical and mental health. Ask your employees for ideas and make them feel important in making these critical decisions.

As we approach the shift back to in-person, anxieties are already high, be sure not to heighten them without a clear and intentional plan back. Organizations were forced to adjust rapidly to the pandemic with very little preparedness. Reflect on how stressful this was and start implementing procedures for scenarios. Whether high-impact events like the pandemic or present low-impact, it is essential to plan.

Last year put everyone’s fight or flight mode to the test and posed enormous challenges that proved workers to be resilient. While we weren’t sure what was to come, being intentional in executing plans provided structure and security for everyone. Having a well-thought-out plan will allow your organization and teams to thrive no matter the situation because you will already have a starting point.

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