Whether you’ve spent sixteen weeks working from home or catching up on your favourite boxsets, there’s a good chance you’ve balanced fear, anxiety and uncertainty with your new routine – and so have your colleagues. The thought of returning to work might be a daunting one, as you attempt to get your head around a new routine, different safety procedures and increasing demands on your time. However, returning to work after such a period could actually work to your advantage.

Here’s what you need to know

Ease yourself into this new normal

Be kind to yourself and those around you. The last few months have been unprecedented and we’re all adapting to a world that’s changing rapidly around us. There’s no doubt that some things may never return to the way they were before the lockdown. Don’t try to run before you can walk, or rush headlong into arrangements that will make life even more difficult for the most part. Approach the possibility of flexible arrangements. Could you work from home for one or two days a week to begin with, or navigate part-time hours before resuming full-time duties?

Communicate with your team

Clear communication with your managers and colleagues is vital. Agree regular meeting times and discuss what’s expected of you, as well as finding out how every member of your team will be working. It’s essential you know when, where and how people can be contacted. Touch base with your team before returning, and aim to be transparent. It’s equally important that others know how you intend on working so that everyone is on the same page.

Make sure you’re aware of all new safety procedures

Hopefully, your management team will communicate changes to you before that first day, such as staggered working hours, additional safety precautions, or hygiene practices. Are workstations spaced more liberally, or is there a one-way system in place? Where are the sanitisation stations? Make sure you’re aware of how the office will look, feel and operate, and raise any concerns immediately. Be mindful, too, that workplace drug and alcohol testing could be undertaken, for your safety and that of others – as well as fulfilling company policy. If you’ve been furloughed for all of those weeks, get used to adhering to company policy in advance of your return to work.

Organise and update your space

The thought of getting back to your desk after several weeks of being furloughed might be daunting. Everything might look and feel different. Get to grips with your responsibilities; what are they, and how they might have changed. If you managed a successful routine at home, consider how elements of that might adapt to office life. You may begin to notice distractions almost immediately. Try and stay focussed, and reduce the interruptions that you have control over – such as your phone. If possible, try listening to music, or using noise-cancelling headphones until you’re used to office life again.

Stock up on supplies

It’s time to stock up on supplies. Do you have everything you need? Get into the right frame of mind by raiding the stationery cupboard as soon as you arrive, and place everything you need within easy reach. Doing so will enable you to jump straight into your to-do list, rather than postponing those necessary tasks. If you’re missing working from home, try adding a few comforts to your workstation, such as a house plant, a photograph of the view out of your window, or your favourite mug. 

Above all, focus on the positives to be found in this new normal. This is an excellent opportunity to reorganise your routine, apply lessons you’ve learned while away from the office and maximise your productivity. Embrace the challenge of working with more flexibility, and remember that we’re all in this together.