This fall, many of us are going back into our offices for the first time since March of 2020 and not only are we feeling out of practice with how to commute, but it feels like we are being asked to go from 0-100 overnight. If you are feeling unsteady about going back and out of practice with what was once normal life, you are not alone.
With that said, this is a golden opportunity to develop a new set of skills that bring in the best of life before the pandemic and the lessons we learned during the pandemic. Even though going back to the office this fall is yet another change, that doesn’t mean that you’re doomed to struggle.
Here are a few things to keep in mind as you think about returning to the office:
Any change to your daily schedule, or a family member’s schedule, is going to have a ripple effect on your entire day. To avoid being thrown off course completely, be proactive and map out your new plan and then think about what balls might get dropped. Allow yourself extra wiggle room the first few days as you work through those unexpected glitches. As a time management expert, I often recommend that my clients start with putting together a flexible plan for their week that includes routines to handle the mundane yet important stuff. That way as you navigate the first few weeks of being back in the office, you won’t have to wonder when the laundry or the grocery shopping will get done. You’ll already have a plan for that.
This is a great opportunity to put together the best of what you liked about your work routines before the pandemic and during the lock-down. Say you’ve gotten used to working out at 6:30 each morning and having breakfast as a family from 7:30 to 8 but that means you won’t be able to get to the office super early. As you are planning your return to the office, talk with your office mates about what you need and see if you can keep some of the things that worked better for you. You are much less likely to end up with the work situation that you really want, if you don’t ever ask for it. If you are concerned with a manager’s opinion of your request, take a moment to present the benefit to the business as a whole as you ask for what you want. For instance, if you are better able to be focused and less stressed when working from home a couple of days a week, let them know that you get more done and are a more responsive coworker when you don’t have to commute every day.
Commuting and traffic are going to complicate things. The monthly client meeting that only took an hour on Zoom might take two hours when you factor in driving to and from their office. Driving kids to and from school and extracurriculars might put some hard limits on your time. Ask yourself which meetings can stay on Zoom and which ones really need to be in person.
Kids and pets are going to need extra patience. Students of all ages are going to be struggling with anxiety that’s bigger than the usual back-to-school nervousness. If you are a working parent, plan for disruption this fall and make sure you have thought through your back-up plans if you have kids that may need extra support. Likewise, if you have a pet that is used to you being around 24/7, think about what you need to be doing now to train them that it is OK when you are gone.
Put together a “command central” bag that has all the chargers, devices, and papers that go back and forth so it is an easy grab and go from one place to another.
This article was written in partnership with getWise - a technology platform that provides on-demand expert advice for small businesses and women to accelerate their business or career.