After the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, many Singaporeans were forced to work remotely, either part-time or full-time. Some workers were laid off completely.
Now, as the world starts slowly returning to normal and businesses reopen, workers are also returning to the office. While this change is exciting and hopeful, it may also be stressful for some.
Life changed overnight when the pandemic hit and countless workers were forced to adjust to a “new normal”. Now, they’re being asked to once again, return to the office.
Unfortunately, things aren’t business as usual. Companies of all sizes are now tasked with meeting social distancing and safety regulations to ensure a safe return for all workers.
But what do these extra precautions mean for you? And how will returning to the office impact you, your job, and your loved ones?
Here we’ll discuss expectations and preparations for returning to the office to help ease the transition.
Changes at Home
Returning to the office means more than just dusting off your briefcase and ironing your work attire.
If you’re one of the countless employees whose home doubled as an office during Covid, making the shift may not be as easy as you think.
Returning to the office will cause as many personal changes as it will professional.
Here’s what to expect from your home life as you prepare to reenter the workforce.
From Home to Office and Back
Your home is your sanctuary. It’s your safe, welcoming place at the end of the day.
When the pandemic hit and thousands of businesses closed, workers were forced to transform their homes into offices. Many people created entire rooms or areas of their homes dedicated to working.
This adjustment wasn’t easy, but necessary. You probably had to alter your schedule, carve out quiet time, and invest in materials like a desk, chair, upgraded WiFi, and maybe even a new laptop.
Now that you’re returning to the office, you can reclaim your home as a relaxing oasis vs a stressful extension of your workplace.
Changes in the Family Dynamic
Changes at home extend far beyond just the physical layout and design. Your family unit likely went through some major adjustments as well.
Do you have children who transitioned to virtual learning at the same time as you went remote? Were you or your partner laid off?
Most families aren’t accustomed to all being home together at once, day in and day out. Add in the stress of schooling, work, and health concerns, and things can get tense.
Hopefully, over time, everyone in the household became acclimated to this new “work from home” lifestyle.
Now that you’re returning to the office, expect another flood of emotions as you transition to yet another “new normal”.
Sit down and have a family meeting to discuss the upcoming changes. Are the children returning to school? Who will be home with them now?
All members of the household must have the physical, emotional, and mental support they need to handle these changes.
Keep in mind that it may take some people longer to adjust than others.
Get Back Into a Healthy Routine
Your WFH schedule was probably very different from the schedule you kept when commuting to work each day. Many Singaporeans admit to working in their pyjamas, sleeping in, and forfeiting most healthy routines and habits during quarantine.
It’s time to set your alarm again, pack your lunch, and get ready to adopt a new routine and schedule. It may take you a few weeks to adjust, which is why you should start early.
Try setting a morning alarm, taking a shower, getting dressed in work clothes, and doing whatever you would normally do to prepare for a day in the office — even if you’re not going!
This will prepare both your body and mind for what’s to come.
If you’re not ready to return to the office full-time, right away, discuss options with your boss. Find out if you can transition by working a few days per week before ramping up to five, full days.
Be Patient with Yourself
Think back to when news of the pandemic first hit and you began remote work. How long did it take you to adjust to working from home?
A few weeks? A few months? Maybe you never truly adjusted to this new way of life.
When returning to the office, it’s important to remember this and be patient with yourself. It’ll take time to feel comfortable and confident again.
The good news is, you’re not alone. Every one of your coworkers is going through the same transition and may be facing their own set of challenges and adjustment period.
Look to each other for support and a sense of community.
Be prepared for significant changes once you enter the office. From the design and layout to the procedures, things will be done differently than you’re used to.
Wearing a face mask, social distancing, using hand sanitizer, and frequent handwashing will all be new additions to your daily routine at work.
Don’t panic. Give yourself time to learn any new rules and regulations and relearn old ones.
Again, you’re not in this struggle alone. Most employers will offer support, patience, and the tools you need to transition back to work safely and confidently.
Changes in the Office
While employees need to take personal responsibility for a healthy return to the office, companies are also tasked with accommodating these changes.
Employers need to be sympathetic with returning workers. Remember, your employees adopted an entirely different environment and schedule when working from home.
Not only are they returning to the office after months away, but they’re returning to an atmosphere much different from the one they left.
Here are a few ways companies can support their employee’s return.
Provide Assurance and Resources
Like a child starting school on the first day, your staff will need plenty of assurance and encouragement upon their return. Job security was at an all-time low during the pandemic.
Employees were unsure if they’d ever return to work or if they’d even have a job to return to! Now that they’re back, they need your patience and support.
Hold a company-wide meeting to discuss all questions, concerns, and changes. Boost company morale and confidence by explaining why each individual’s role is integral to the company’s success.
Now, more than ever, you need to stroke your worker’s egos.
Your employees also need the tools and resources to succeed. Many positions were either eliminated or downsized following the pandemic.
Some employees may need to relearn their jobs or adopt a completely different job description. Provide adequate training and resources so that workers can perform their job with confidence and efficiency.
Adopt Active Listening
The most successful bosses have an “open-door policy” when it comes to interacting with employees. It’s important that staff members feel comfortable coming to you with questions or concerns.
This is even more important now as they struggle to adjust to life in the office. Instead of holding meetings where you talk directly to, at, or down to your employees, practice active listening.
Ask for feedback on how the transition back to work is going. Meet with employees on an individual basis where they’re free to speak openly and honestly.
Ask what’s working within the new system and what needs improving on. Some workers may not feel comfortable coming right out and saying what’s on their minds.
Utilize anonymous surveys or a suggestion box to encourage honest responses.
Being empathetic to employee needs and concerns will only benefit your company in the long run. Don’t take their feedback as criticism, but instead as a way to improve on the status quo and ensure all employees are prospering under the “new normal”.
Benefits of Returning to the Office for Employees
While some people are eager and excited about returning to the office, others may be hesitant. Some people prosper when working from home while others struggle to achieve a productive mind frame.
Here are a few benefits of work in the office and why returning may be in your best interest.
A Sense of Community
Working from home can be incredibly isolating — even when you’re surrounded by people. There’s no one there to bounce ideas off of, ask you to lunch, or vent about a recent work memo.
Working in an office space provides a sense of community and belonging. If working from home during the pandemic made you feel segregated, or even depressed, returning to the office is in your best interest.
Not only will it give you a sense of purpose, but also a sense of unity. While remote work apps like Slack and Zoom are great for sharing ideas and hosting meetings, it doesn’t replace the daily interactions and comradery found in the office.
Shared goals, projects, and assignments give you something to work towards as a team. You’ll find motivation and energy in your coworkers.
Together, you can achieve higher productive output and accomplish more in less time. This is a win-win for both employees and the company as a whole.
Mental and Physical Wellbeing
Returning to the office will also do wonders for your physical and mental wellbeing. Humans need social interaction to flourish and thrive. Without it, people tend to get depressed and anxious.
Getting dressed and entering the office each morning will make you feel more alive, purposeful, and accomplished.
Did your communication skills suffer due to the pandemic? Many people went from interacting every day with coworkers and friends to spending days alone and in silence.
Sharpen your communication and interpersonal skills by returning to the office. Here, you’ll need to interact, attend meetings, present ideas, and engage in general office chatter; all of which will help you strengthen and rediscover those skills.
An alarming amount of people gained weight during quarantine. With nothing else to do but eat and sit around, many people became lazy, lethargic, and overweight. Gym and fitness centre closures didn’t help matters much.
All of these factors caused long-term health complications that extend far beyond the pandemic.
Returning to the office will get you up, moving, and motivated. You may even feel inspired to join a gym, engage in group workouts, or start a fitness challenge with coworkers.
Reduced Stress at Home
If you were one of the millions of people who experienced increased stress at home during quarantine, returning to the office might help.
Family dynamics are based heavily on each member having a role. Was your role to provide financially? Are you happiest when you’re out in the world, interacting and generating income?
When you’re out of your element (a.ka. stuck at home), you might feel inadequate. This leads to increased stress and tension in your relationships.
With workers returning to the office and children getting back in the classroom, many families report less tension at home.
Stay Calm and Successfully Return to the Office
The world is slowly opening back up again. Children are heading back to school and parents are returning to the office.
While this is exciting news for most people, others may be overwhelmed or hesitant about another change. Both companies and employees are struggling with returning to the office — physically, emotionally, and mentally. By remaining patient with both yourself and the process, you’ll discover a new purpose and a positive outlook on your work-life.
Are you an employer welcoming your staff back to the office? Kerry Consulting has for some useful advice and resources. Click here to read more. Or are you a motivated employee looking for the perfect position? Click here for recent job postings.
Together, we can achieve a new sense of normalcy that benefits workers, companies, and families.