For many this spring, the time to return to the office after a year of working from home will come. Over the last year, an astonishing 42% of Americans worked from home full-time. But with many colleges and universities planning to reopen their doors, and countless other businesses set to do the same, the days of working in your pajamas are likely over for many.
The question is, what will working in an office with dozens and even hundreds of coworkers look like after a year of lockdowns and isolation? To help you answer that question and win the office reopening season, here are three tips for returning to the office.
1. It’s All About Respect
It is no secret that the pandemic has become political and polarizing. Strong feelings could easily erupt over things as simple as vaccines and handshakes. The key to navigating office relationships during this time is to respect the decisions of others.
If you want to shake hands with your co-workers or even pull them in for a hug after not seeing them for almost a year, but they are hesitant, it is best to not judge them and give them their space. On the other hand, if you are appalled at the very idea of physical contact, it doesn’t mean your coworkers who want to shake hands are evil. Everyone’s comfort level is different.
Instead of vilifying those who think differently than you, give them respect and honor their wishes when interacting with them. And hey, maybe the elbow bump could be the new handshake.
2. Follow Office Rules and Be Grateful You Get to See Other Humans
For many people, the last year has been a huge challenge as the crushing weight of isolation has left them feeling depressed and discouraged. If you fall into that category and have a rebellious streak that makes you want to rebel against office rules you think are unnecessary, don’t. Instead, take a moment to be grateful for the fact that you are finally able to interact with people face-to-face again.
You can also seek out those who feel the same way you do and have your own special “corona-free” times.
3. Don’t Be Afraid to Tell Others How You Feel
If you are more cautious about returning to work, don’t be afraid to tell others how you feel. If your co-workers are more touchy feely than you think is wise, respectfully tell them you would prefer some space for the time being. You can explain to them that you have people in your life who are at risk and you still want to be able to see them.
No matter your reasoning, respectfully telling your coworkers how you feel is always a good idea. And don’t be offended when others tell you how they are feeling. We have to give each other the benefit of the doubt.
A Season of Transition
This spring is sure to be a season of transition. If going back to work ends up being a source of frustration, remember that things will likely change one way or another in the months ahead. If you can approach that season with respect and gratitude you are sure to do well in the months ahead.