Whether you are returning to the office post-Covid or accepted a new job that requires you to be on-site, transitioning from a remote environment to a traditional workplace is significant. This shift will affect your day-to-day work life, but it will also likely impact your family and well-being. It doesn’t matter if you’re thrilled about or dreading the move. There are going to be some significant adjustments for you along the way.
Significant changes at work happen all of the time, and even the ones you’re most excited about can disrupt your balance. When this happens, you might feel a sense of chaos as you try to reorganize everything, and this kind of stress can have a ripple effect throughout your life, from your quality of work to your mental health. While there’s no getting around the fact that transitioning from working remotely to having to be on-site will likely have you feeling some degree of chaos, there are things you can do to help minimize the impact.
In this case, planning and organizing in the weeks (or days) leading to your move to the office can help you feel a sense of structure at home. It’ll also allow you to focus more energy on your professional adjustment when you’re officially back on site. The task might seem overwhelming at first (especially if you have no interest in or are angry about going back to the office), but as you chip away at these preparations, you’ll feel more and more relief. Here’s where to begin.
One of the benefits of working remotely is that you usually have a little more wiggle room with your schedule. Even if your employer closely monitors your activity as a remote worker, you still have certain time luxuries on-site workers don't. For instance, when you’re working remotely, you might be able to drop the kids off at daycare or school as late as 8:30 a.m. for your 9 a.m. start time, but once you’re back in the office, that may no longer be an option due to your commute. Similarly, you can easily fold the laundry or put away dishes on your breaks as a remote worker, so once you switch to on-site work, you’ll need to carve out time to do these tasks outside of work.
This sudden loss of time may be one of the most challenging adjustments because it will affect you and your family. To minimize the impact, plan out your new schedule in advance and start practicing it before you’ve officially gone back to the office (this practice is beneficial if your kids’ routines have to be changed). Things you might consider during this process could include:
Childcare/school pickup and drop off (timing changes, figuring out transportation, deciding if you need additional care–and budgeting for it if so)
Your wakeup time; you’ll need to wake up early enough to get dressed and ready for work, manage what you need to in the morning, and commute to work
Extracurricular activity drop off and pickup
Grocery pickup or shopping timing
Small household tasks like cleaning or laundry
Establish who will be present for any upcoming home appointments (ex: HVAC maintenance, carpet cleaners, plumber, etc.)
Physical activity that you could do at home but are unable to do at the office (ex: a 30-min run or yoga flow
Again, this is probably the most challenging adjustment when transitioning from remote work back to the office. It might feel like there suddenly aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything done, but you’ve likely been through this before to master it again. Take a deep breath. You’ve got this.
If you’re a fan of clothing shopping, this may be one preparation you don’t mind. You have likely been living in stretchy pants, going makeup-free, and relying on dry shampoo more than you care to admit as a remote worker. Still, unfortunately, this look is most likely far too laid back for even the most casual work environments. So, it’s time to dig through your closet and bathroom, assess what you have, and make a list of what you need to look put together at the office.
The exact things you’ll need to have in your closet and bathroom vanity will depend a lot on your company’s culture, but some basics you may want to have on hand include:
Well-fitting pants that are free of rips, stains, and holes (this applies to dress pants, jeans, or any other kind of pants)
A handful of tops that are comfortable but also work-appropriate (consider your company’s dress code with necklines and overall fit)
A few skirts and dresses (if this is your style, if not, then stock up on more pants instead)
Layering pieces, such as a cardigan or blazer
Hairstyling products required to give you a polished look
Any makeup you like to wear (if applicable)
Shoes in good condition (not scuffed up, no holes, insoles, etc.)
Dress socks or tights (if applicable)
A lovely bag to transport work equipment in, such as a laptop or important documents (if applicable)
If you’re starting from scratch, this shopping list may seem pretty extensive (not to mention pricey). Consider looking for pieces at thrift or consignment shops, or create a capsule wardrobe with interchangeable pieces (here’s an example) to make it more affordable.
Manage Expectations and Set Boundaries
For employers, one of the benefits of a remote workforce is that the line between work and home becomes very blurred. It means parents may sign off for a few hours when their child gets home from school, but they’ll log back in the evening to catch up on anything they missed. When employees work on-site, though, there is a clear line that allows for better boundaries.
Before you move back to the office, start thinking about your new boundaries. Perhaps, you’ll leave work at the office every night and refuse to check in again until the following day when you return. Maybe you’ll advocate for a hybrid work schedule that benefits both you and your employer (i.e., you’ll give as much flexibility as possible). Whatever makes the most sense to you, plan it out and be prepared to discuss your boundaries with your manager upon your return to the office.
Similarly, it’s essential to manage people’s expectations of you at work and home with this transition. If you’re an introvert and working on-site will drain you, let your manager know that you’d like to opt out of social events. Ask your partner for a few minutes of downtime when you get home to help you unwind (even if it’s just five minutes of listening to music in the car in the driveway). If this transition will impact your kids in any way, prepare them for the changes ahead of time, and be honest with them about your new limitations as a working parent.
Use this change as an opportunity to re-establish what your work-life looks like so that you can succeed professionally and personally.
If the move from remote work to on-site isn’t for you, then advocate for yourself with your manager. You may be able to get them to agree to a hybrid schedule if nothing else. If there is no hope for remote flexibility once you return to the office, it’s time to look for a new opportunity. There are so many unique remote opportunities within The Mom Project’s job marketplace, so join the community and start applying.
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