8 tips for a smooth return to office after working from home

Viesturs Abelis 7.09.2023
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Many people find themselves returning to office after working from home, as companies are cracking down on fully remote positions. 

Recently, Meta, Amazon, Goldman, and Zoom have all made headlines after tightening the work-from-home (WFH) leash. Even companies such as Salesforce are backtracking on their remote work policies, after having declared that ”the 9-to-5 workday is dead” back in 2021.

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The tides have turned and, as more and more of us are returning to the office – either full-time or in a hybrid capacity – there’s widespread disappointment, alongside anxiety and stress about how to readjust to the “old” ways of working. 

Fortunately, the transition back to the office is not THAT difficult. While there may be some hard-to-swallow things like commuting, everything else will fall into place once you establish a rhythm and get your routine going.

Let’s take a look at eight tips and tricks that will help make the transition of returning to office after working from home smoother and less painful. 

1. Put together a suitable new routine (and start it early)

No more waking up at 8:59 to flip open your laptop and “arrive” at the office by 9:00. Morning grooming and commuting to the office can be quite time-consuming, so expect to have to wake up earlier than before. It can be tough at first, which is why we recommend starting this new routine at least a week before returning to the office so that when you do, you’re already in the flow of things. 

sleeping man struggling with going back to the office after working from home

Nowadays, flexible work hours are gaining popularity. If the WFH era has turned you into an irredeemable night owl, consider talking to your manager about starting your day slightly later in the morning to avoid destroying your sleep schedule. 

2. Give yourself and others time to adjust 

If you’ve been fully remote, it may take a while to acclimatize to the office. The rhythm of the day, the environment, the breaks, the meetings – a lot of things will be different and may take some time to get used to. 

And that’s fine. You shouldn’t expect yourself to be at 100% right from the start, nor should you expect it from your colleagues. Chances are some people will be disgruntled with this new policy, and patience toward them and yourself will be crucial to get office life going on the right foot. Also, don’t hesitate to openly discuss tips for going back to the office, and you might find that other colleagues also have some cool ways to manage the new reality. 

3. Establish boundaries with your colleagues

According to a recent DeskTime survey, employees report that one of the best things about working from home is the lack of distractions and – good news! – it’s not something you necessarily have to give up for your transition back to the office. 

Talk with your colleagues and set some quiet hours during the day, when there are no meetings and people shouldn’t be disturbed. Or ask them to respect signs that you’re in deep work, e.g. having headphones on, and avoid bothering you unless absolutely necessary. 

Establishing these types of boundaries early on should save a lot of headaches further down the line. 

4. Find a productive/enjoyable way to spend your breaks 

Staying on top of chores when working from home is another element workers are sad to see go. Doing laundry or the dishes during a break at home frees up time later in the evening and positively contributes to overall work-life balance, while also recharging your work batteries by having a productive break. 

Nowadays, there are plenty of little chores and personal tasks you can do from the office as well – paying the bills, doing a bit of online shopping, catching up on communication, planning events. You should still be taking regular breaks, so why not make them count even if you’re away from home? 

colleagues enjoying the transition back to the office

You can also use the opportunity to bond with colleagues over lunch or some shared activity and have a wonderful time doing it. 

5. Take control of your commute

Probably one of the biggest pain points about RTO is having to spend time in transit to and from the office. Our tip is to try to make the most of it, instead of brooding the entire journey.

Spend the travel time doing things you enjoy – line up some interesting podcasts, play a game, read a book, catch up with friends. Or, if you’re willing to put in work off the clock, then you can spend your travel time planning your day, preparing for a meeting, or otherwise getting your workday started/concluded on a productive note. 

In either case, you should plan your commute activities ahead of time so that you have something to look forward to. 

6. Take your home office with you

Love homemade snacks? Bring them with you. Do slippers make you feel cozy? Bring them with you. Do you need silence to be productive? Take some noise-cancelling headphones with you when going back to the office after working from home. 

man with an inflatable flamingo making use of tips for transitioning back to the office

As far as company policy allows it, you should craft your workspace the way you like, so that you can work comfortably and get into the zone more easily. After all, you’re going to be spending many hours at your desk, and turning it into your little home-away-from-home can do wonders for your well-being and productivity.

7. Keep an eye on your productivity patterns

Going back to the office, your productivity patterns will change. Whether it’s due to a different schedule, more in-person collaboration, or some other factors, you will need to adjust how you work to ensure you don’t fall behind on your responsibilities. 

That’s why it’s a good idea to reflect on your WFH productivity trends and compare them to your in-office ones. By using time-tracking software such as DeskTime, you can see at what time of the day you typically engage in deep work and, conversely, at what times you run out of energy. 

You can use this information to time-block certain hours of the day, or simply get a better understanding of how to make the most of the hours you spend in the office.

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8. Appreciate the positives

Going back to the office comes with positives, too. 

You can connect with colleagues and help combat feelings of isolation that are so common with WFH. In the office, brainstorms are more engaging and help is more readily available. Working in the office also helps set clear boundaries between work and home – you can leave work tasks at the door when you leave and minimize the urge to check and respond to email in the evening during your time off. 

Often, the office is also better equipped – an extra monitor, a better chair, abundant stationery, and more – which can also improve your day-to-day working conditions. 

colleagues sharing tips for going back to the office

Returning to office after working from home – done right

Going back to the office can be tough. The interruptions, the commute, the lack of flexibility, the line at the coffee machine, that one annoying colleague – all common reasons why people dread RTO. 

But, by following the tips for transitioning back to the office outlined in this article, you can make the most of it and return to work with a spring in your step. At the end of the day, it’s about making the most of the situation and adjusting in a healthy way. The worry is often scarier than reality, so have an open mind and before long you may learn to appreciate the benefits of working shoulder-to-shoulder with your team.

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