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Sweats To Suits

The Return To The Office After COVID-19
Summary: This article is a commonsense guide for employees returning to the post-COVID-19 workplace—from sweats back to suits!

8 Things To Consider Before Returning To The Post-COVID-19 Workplace

The return to the office is something that can be planned for in a more organized and orderly way than the WFH switch that took you by surprise at the beginning of this pandemic. However, are you mentally and physically ready for the return?

As companies are preparing the office spaces for employees to re-enter after COVID-19. Are you, as an employee, prepared to go back into the office? Many employees have concerns about going back into a formal workspace. From health and safety to fitting back into their work clothes after this hiatus.

One thing is for sure, your company should have your safety and wellbeing as their top priority before sending out a plan of re-entry. This article contains 8 things to consider and do prior to your return to work in the office.

1. Communicate

Since people have been working from home during this pandemic for your company, communication was probably iffy at one point, but by now, it should have certainly improved! Your company should be in constant contact with its employees, letting you know what the plans are for a return to the workplace and what safety precautions are being put in place.

You also should be in constant contact with your coworkers and your manager. Working from home may have initially been a challenge for you, but now you should be a pro at getting in touch with those you need to on a daily basis.

Tip: Take this communication practice back to the office with you. Keep everyone who needs to know in a continuous loop of communication, so everyone knows what you are working on, where you are with your projects and deadlines. This will give your manager and coworkers peace of mind and this is also a way to stay at a safe distance from others when back at the office. If you communicate electronically regularly, then the need for someone to stop by your workspace lessens.

2. Try On Your Clothes

Have you tried on your work clothes since you have been working from home? Your new attire is probably sweats, t-shirts, pajamas and yoga pants—all of these comfy clothes. Attempting to put back on work clothes may be something you should do sooner than later. Imagine Day 1 when it’s time to get dressed for office re-entry. You go to button up your pants and they will not button—they do not fit. You will then go into a panic and have to decide what to throw on to make it to the office on time.

Tip: Try on your clothes now. If they are a little snug, put down the Doritos and pick up your physical activity to ensure a good fit. Otherwise, start shopping for one size up now and place your order. Shipping may take some time.

3. Keep Your Distance

The six-foot social distancing rule still applies in the physical workspace. Your employer may have made changes to your physical workspace so that employees can stay 6 feet or more away from each other. They may have changed the spacing between cubicles, converted meeting rooms into additional workspaces, or put tape on the floor to remind employees to stay 6 feet away from each other. Do your part by paying attention to and respecting your employer’s social distancing rules. Help your coworkers follow the social distancing rules by offering positive reminders if someone lapses. In addition, encourage people to collaborate virtually whenever possible.

Tip: Check with your employer before you go back to ensure that they have thought of these precautions mentioned above. If you need to go to the copier and see a group of people in the way, go back to your work station and wait until the people have cleared.

4. Practice Good Hygiene

Reinforce good hygiene practices. You’ve likely been washing your hands now at least 10 times a day—even more if you have kids. Don’t stop that when you go back to work. Hopefully, your employer will make sure to have well-stocked restrooms that have touchless soap and hands-free dispensers with sanitizer in lobbies, conference rooms, and lounges. But, just in case, you should bring sanitizer into your office/cubical and use it throughout the day. You should also bring in sanitizing wipes for your desk and office equipment. Be sure to cover your sneezes and coughs and keep your distance. You may even want to bring in a box of your own tissues and toilet paper. Your employer may require you to wear masks and/or gloves.

Tip: If you don’t have sanitizing wipes and the store is out, Amazon, Walmart, and other stores have containers of dry industrial/shop towels (thicker than paper towels, but still paper). You can pour a bottle of disinfecting cleaner into that container and you have made your own sanitizing wipes.

5. Be Open To New Ways Of Working

Since working from home, new habits have taken shape. We have discovered different ways to collaborate virtually, which may likely continue when we return to the office. Workflows and communication might improve. We should embrace these changes and let them flourish.

Tip: If your company hasn’t already thought about this, suggest virtual meetings using GoToMeeting, Zoom, or Skype instead of face-to-face meetings. This will be especially helpful if there are more than 10 people included in that meeting.

6. Bring A Positive Attitude

This will help you and others feel better. Consider how you feel when preparing to return to the office. Are you anxious, scared, sad, overwhelmed? Don’t you think others feel the same way? If you have anxiety about it, others likely do too. Stay positive and spread that positivity.

Tip: Email your coworkers a nice, happy note during the day to make them smile and feel more at ease. Hopefully, they will return the favor to you!

7. Prepare Your Family And Pets

This may seem silly but think about it… you have all been at home with each other, in close quarters for weeks now. It has become your “new normal” and soon it will be disrupted again. You need to make sure you have childcare if schools are not opening back up. Sit your family down and have a talk with them. Communication with them is just as important as communication with your coworkers—maybe even more important. They may be afraid for you to go back into public and you need to ease their fears and comfort them. You also should make sure that your pets will be taken care of, they are likely to have separation anxiety as well. They, too, have gotten used to you all being at home and it will be hard on them when the change occurs.

Tip: Don’t wait until the last minute to prepare for these things. Going back to the office will eventually happen and you need to make sure that all “housekeeping” items will be taken care of prior to re-entry. Don’t feel rushed and scramble the day before, these things are extremely important.

8. Get Back Into A Routine

This time at home and out of the office has likely thrown your family’s schedule way off. Later bedtimes, later wake times, no naps, late-night movies, long lunches, and the list goes on. It is a good idea to start getting you and your family back into a routine.

Tip: Start tomorrow morning. Set your alarm as you would to beat traffic and make it in the office on time. Wake up, shower, make breakfast, wake your kids, pack their lunches for school, or daycare or a family member’s house and get into a routine. Although you may not need to go back to the office for a little while, it’s still good to get into a predictable routine again. Use the lunches that you pack that day for a nice backyard picnic with your family.

No one is sure when things and workplaces will be back to “normal,” and what was normal will likely not be that way again. Employees will be returning to a changed environment. Some companies may implement more permanent work-from-home policies, some have already reduced their workforces, and some may bring everyone back in but at staggered times. Depending on how this has directly affected your company, being in an office will be a different experience now.

Look for communication and clear direction from your company. And in the meantime, practice the tips above in preparation to go from sweats to suits in a practical, stress-free way.