Return to office, what to expect. COVID-19 has changed things. It has changed the way we shop for groceries, the way our children learn, the way we interact with friends and family, and how we work. In one fell swoop, businesses that did not have employees working from home, now do. Online meetings with barking dogs, cats walking in front of the screen, or kids dancing in the background have become a norm, along with so many other things that most of us would not have anticipated. But what happens when we inevitably go back to the office?
Talk about a transition! Everyone who has been wearing shorts, yoga pants, and flip flops all day long, may find it challenging to get back into the swing of wearing “office” clothes again. And, depending on the timing, we may look like we need a haircut…. badly. Luckily, we’ll all be in the same boat, but it may take us a few minutes to recognize our co-workers again.
For those of us with pets, we may experience a bit of separation anxiety from being away from them for more than a few minutes. The pets, on the other hand, maybe thankful to get back to their regular routine of relaxing and looking out the window in peace.
The lunch hour maybe a tad strange as well, since we’ve all likely been cooking more than we usually do. There may be co-workers bringing in 5-star meals, while you may find others bringing in a complete dinner flop, and powering through it because they (or their spouse) made it. And, if your dish was successful, be prepared to share the recipe. Lunchtime conversation will likely revolve around successfully understanding Common Core math or Calculus, an interesting science project that you worked on with your child, re-learning what an Acrostic poem is, or re-learning various time periods in history. Alternatively, we may be sharing how clean the coils on the back of the refrigerator are as a result of their weekly cleaning, or how empty our closets are as a result of the major purge we did recently.
Meetings? Well, maybe. We may just stick with the online meetings that we have come to know and love. If we do have in-person meetings, each person may need to hold up a yellow bar underneath their head every time they speak to signify, they are the speaker. And, it will probably take a bit of getting used to moving our heads around the room to see people vs. the Brady Bunch screen that we’ve been enjoying for the past few weeks.
The redesigned office space will take some getting used to as well. Workstations will likely move and be separate. If you’ve picked up the habit of talking to yourself while working from home, you won’t need to drop that habit quite yet. Your closest co-worker will likely be out of earshot. And, you will have fewer worries about eating that bean burrito at lunch.
You may need to remember the elementary school years, however, as there may be arrows on the floor to continue social distancing while navigating through the office. But if you were, or are, a fan of the game PAC-MAN or Ms. PAC-MAN, you may enjoy the new routes. These routes may even give you the opportunity to see co-workers (from a distance) that you don’t normally see and learn something new about them. Who knows, they may have learned a new language, picked up a new skill, or uncovered a hidden talent over the last few weeks. Speaking of which, what new skill did you pick up?
In all seriousness, going back to an office will be different, it has to be. But different doesn’t necessarily mean bad. Schedules may change, working from home may be more widely accepted by those businesses that weren’t on-board previously, and productivity may increase.
Change is happening. We encourage you to “go with the flow” when you do return to the office and know that this will be new to everyone that you work with, including the business owners. Together, we’ll get through this. And if we work together, we’ll come out of this a bit stronger.