We have experienced perhaps the most unexpected remote work schedule that made us feel anxious, isolated, and alienated from colleagues. It was certainly not the remote we wanted, but it also offered us lessons that are worth continuing to put into practice. We need time at home to work on important tasks that require concentration, but we also need a lot of socialization, as well as a sense of belonging to the group. And as on the medical front, things are optimistic, it’s time to return to office life with caution and organization. Here’s how you can make this adaptation easier and help your colleagues get back on track.
ASK FOR FLEXIBILITY TO HAVE AN EASY ADAPTATION TO THE OFFICE
The latest studies show that about two-thirds of employees are worried about the transition to the office, according to a survey conducted by the professional platform Envoy, on a sample of 1,000 people working full time or part-time. Microsoft released the Work Trend Index in April, entitled “The Next Great Disruption is Hybrid Work – Are We Ready?” conducted on a sample of 30,000 people from 31 countries. According to the index, 71% of UK employees want flexibility after the pandemic. More than a third (37%) are likely to move to a new location in the next year because they can work remotely, emphasizing a desire for continued remote working options. 55% of employees prefer to work remotely at least three days a week, according to a PwC study. So to make the transition easier, ask to work in a hybrid style, and if you coordinate a team, offer this possibility to your colleagues as well. Flexibility means the opportunity to choose the location of the office and to have a work-life balance and it should be the new normal.
START WITH THE “PILOT” DAYS THAT WILL HELP YOU IN ADAPTATION
Even if you plan to go to the office every day or just a few days a week, interrupting your daily routine can be stressful. Suddenly, you will interact with many more people than usual and you will also need to adjust your work schedule so that you reserve time for commuting. How can you reduce the stress that comes with this change? Through a pilot program, that offers you the possibility of testing office life.
The day before you go to work, decide what you will wear. This way you will be able to know if your clothes fit you or if you are missing certain pieces of clothing that are important to buy.
The day you go to the office, wake up two hours before work, have breakfast, put on the right clothes, and commute to the office. This exercise gives you a chance to solve any problem – for example, has the schedule of the means of transportation you use to get to the office changed? Are there works on the road and do you need to find alternative routes? Did you forget your access card or do you need to use another one? Spend a few hours in the office to see how you feel, what technical connections you need to re-establish, if you are in an office where there is an obligation to wear a mask, test how many hours you can resist wearing it while working. This way you prepare yourself physically and mentally for your new routine.
Returning to the office also means a change in family routines and sleep schedule, which may have changed during the pandemic.
Stefania Baita, a career coach, recommends that you talk to family members about the transition and how you can make things better together, determining who will have responsibilities or how you can delegate certain tasks. For example, you can keep online shopping and help from grandparents to pick up children.
And don’t forget to take care of yourself through a sleep schedule that should be 8 hours and adjust it so that you have about two hours between waking up and starting work at the office. In order to have a good physical condition in addition to sleep, including in the program daily exercise, healthy eating, and activities that allow you to detach from work.
TAKE INTO ACCOUNT OFFICE RULES
According to the latest relaxation measures adopted by the National Committee for Emergency Situations, in any office, where there are up to 10 people, if all people are vaccinated, then they can work without a mask. The mask remains mandatory in closed, common spaces.
Here is what Decision no. 41 from 24.06.2021
Art.13 – It is proposed to exempt from the obligation to wear a protective mask at workplaces in closed spaces where a maximum of 10 people work, provided that they are vaccinated against the SARS-CoV-2 virus and for which 10 days have passed from the completion of the complete vaccination scheme and with the provision of a distance of 1 meter between them, and in those areas where access to the public or other workers is not allowed, mask remaining mandatory in all common enclosed spaces.
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT VACCINATION
The condition for sitting without a mask in an office with a maximum of ten people is that they be vaccinated. But the subject of vaccination may be a sensitive one for some colleagues, so you should treat it with discretion and empathy (especially in cases where vaccination cannot be done for medical reasons). It is important to know that there are no legal provisions to make vaccination mandatory from the perspective of the risk group / occupational category, and the vaccination decision is an eminently personal decision.
Any attempt to condition or differentiate colleagues (to grant rights) may be associated with an act of discrimination on medical grounds. Sanctions may be in the form of fines ranging from RON 1,000 to RON 100,000 if the discrimination concerns a group of persons, and up to the obligation of the employer to pay the employee compensatory and/or moral damages.
The employer still has the obligation to comply with the measures adopted by the Government to control the spread of SARS-Cov 2, performing epidemiological triage before entering the spaces organized by the employer, ensuring masks and social distance between employees during their presence in the office space. The role of the employer is to inform employees about the benefits of vaccination, the places where it is available, but without conditioning the entry into the company by the existence of a vaccination certificate.
HOW TO CREATE A SAFE WORKING ENVIRONMENT FOR YOUR TEAM
Returning to the office and the adjustment process can cause feelings of concern and fear about a possible SARS-Cov 2 infection.
From the position of a team manager, it is important to offer your colleagues empathy, daily communication and security, by reshaping the work environment to limit the spread of the virus. Many of the health and safety regulations adopted last year should be maintained, with the pandemic still present. Make sure that the distance of at least one meter between the offices (recommended by the WHO) is respected in the office by placing posters and signs in different parts of the office building. You can also suggest in boarding meetings to buy and use applications to notify colleagues when they are too close to each other or technologies based on easy / voice recognition to limit access to common areas.
Show empathy and offer days of medical leave to colleagues who do not feel well, informing them that it is not necessary to come to the company’s headquarters if they have virus symptoms and keeping remote work as appropriate. Also, pay attention to the program, by organizing it either in shifts or by hybrid work or making the arrival and departure time more flexible, so that people come and go at different times or on different days and avoid congestion.
Limit unnecessary interactions as much as possible by removing meetings that may be an e-mail or a phone call from the calendar. You can maintain this practice even if you recruit new colleagues. Keep the interviews online (at least at the stage of getting to know the candidate) and make sure that the administrative part of the hiring and onboarding process can be done online.
BUILD A BETTER WORKING DAY
Returning to the office also means an opportunity to return to those activities that give you energy and help you be more productive.
On the way to the office, try to relax, listening to good music, podcasts, or simply be a fine observer of the environment around you, this being a source of ideas for your office work.
You can prioritize tasks and activities that were impossible to perform remotely, such as face-to-face meetings or lunch meetings with your colleagues.
When planning meetings or team meetings with a physical presence, think about giving people an experience, give them a serious reason to come to the office.
SEEK AND OFFER SUPPORT FOR EASIER ADAPTATION
It is normal to face fears, worries, and questions about returning to work. These are natural feelings when you change your daily routine. You will be able to get over emotional states much easier if you talk about them to your colleagues and, in turn, you take the time to listen to them. Personal connections help us to be more efficient and productive at work.
Keep in mind that many of your colleagues have changed due to the pandemic. Don’t expect to have the same relationships, but rather try to meet them again and assure them you are a family where you take care of each other.
SET LIMITS AND ENJOY BALANCE
Perhaps the most awaited moment that you want to relive when you return to the office is the one in which you look forward to your loved ones at home. And working in the office gives you the chance to set boundaries between professional and personal life, which in remote work, is quite difficult to set. It is the opportunity to turn off the laptop at the end of the program and to dedicate yourself, without worries, to the family that will feel that you are close to them and will give you good cheer and energy for a new day of work.
Returning to the office and the adaptation process are steps that you will go through more easily if you accept them. Strict expectations or preconceived notions can cause you stress and frustration. It is important to recognize that you cannot control the decision to return to the office (this often depends on managers, colleagues), but you can take care of how you feel and your behavior. Notice your emotional mood is in the first weeks after returning to the office and try, together with the manager, to adjust the work schedule and find those activities that make you happy.