How to Successfully Transition Back to the Office

Career Enrichment, Career Transitions
08/31/21 - Shari Santoriello

2020 showed us that remote work is no longer a future fantasy, but a legitimate work style. 2021 is being referred to as “The Great Resignation” as more and more workers are looking to leave their current employment, looking for something different. 

As we approach Fall 2021, many workers are being asked to participate in the season of “Back to School” and make a return to the office. This is creating a bag of mixed emotions – excitement and anxiety, enthusiasm and trepidation. Some are grateful to have the opportunity to leave the solidarity of their home office, while others are overwhelmed trying to figure out how they are going to balance going back into a physical office after 18 months of WFH. Some are feeling both at the same time.

Are you a “Hooray!! I can’t wait to get back to the office” or an “AAACCCKKK…..I don’t want to go back!”? Either way these five tips will help you find your way…successfully!

Picture of a happy woman dancing

Own the Feelings: Yours & Theirs

It is important to recognize what you are feeling during this time. You may be feeling contradictory feelings, happy to be able to socialize with colleagues in-person, uncomfortable due to the on-going pandemic, worried about how your household will now change with you going “back” to work. It may be uncomfortable, and that is okay!

It is helpful to remember that others may also be feeling what you are, or they may have completely different feelings. Recognizing and acknowledging these feelings is a great first step to setting yourself up for success. Once you can name the feelings, you can work to set your mindset. Giving yourself the space to determine what will work best for you to have forward progress will give the ability to stack up the wins!


We’ve heard so much about the importance of “connections” during the pandemic. What does this look like when we return to the office? Not everyone is coming back to the office, full-time, in-person. Some will remain working remotely, some will have a hybrid arrangement and others will be back in the office “full-time”. 

There has probably been changes made to your team since last year, people who were onboarded virtually, team members who have left.How do we connect and reconnect successfully? 

One of the first things is to realize that you are likely not the only one feeling hesitancy about this. Then, get to connecting!

  • Treat all employees as if they are getting onboarded for the first time!
  • If you run a meeting, start the meeting with something non-work related, personal celebrations, short “chit-chat” or even a random question ”what is your favorite ice cream flavor?”. Here are some team-building ideas that gets people thinking of something other than “just work”. Often, this encourages creativity and productivity as people feel seen and heard as whole people. If you have remote workers, be sure that their screens can be seen and they are included fully.
  • Use the technology! Many organizations are using Slack, Microsoft Teams, Google Chat and others to stay in touch. Set up a space for “watercooler chat” within that virtual world. Continue to use technology for training, both in-person and digitally. (Tired of ZOOM? Check out Gatherround.)
  • Ask people out on dates – virtual or in-person. Start asking people within your organization for 15 minute “dates” to find out who they are and what they do within your organization.

What do I need?

One of the hardest questions to ask ourselves is what do I need to feel accomplished? And you may not know right now, so start with what you do know! Use these questions to build your “needs inventory”:

  • How am I most productive? (If you are unsure, check out this quiz.)
  • How do I like to be communicated to? (This blog may help.)
  • Do I need a hybrid work model?
  • Do I need child care/elder care options?
  • What are my contingency plans?
  • Do I need to change a new routine I started?
  • What am I doing for self-care? (Here are some quick tips!)
  • What does my support system look like?
  • Does this align with my goals and values?

Keep in mind that as you or your colleagues return to the office, some of these things may change. Build in some flexibility to adapt as your situation changes! Try different things, maybe something that worked in your morning routine pre-pandemic is no longer a good fit. That’s okay! Replace it with something else. Have fun, experiment to find what works for you!

Set Healthy Boundaries

This is a major challenge for many of us! We are not sure what this is supposed to look like and how to enforce this. Much like recognizing what you need to be successful, setting boundaries is a critical element to support your achievement. And, it looks different for each of us, and may change regularly! (This is a great resource to help!)

Once you do your needs inventory, you may see some patterns emerge that can help set up your boundaries. Do you need to have an hour in the morning to exercise, meditate, journal or wake up slowly? If so, maybe you could block your calendar from meetings in the morning and add some meeting slots at another time of the day that works better for you. Are you helping a child with school during the day and need to work a split shift? Have a transparent conversation with your lead and propose a solution that allows you to be productive and meet your needs.

Scrabble text that says "ask for help"

Ask for Help

One of the more challenging things for me is asking for help! However, I’ve learned that It is essential for making progress and hitting my objectives, both professionally and personally. Help comes in many forms – it can be an accountability partner, a caregiver, a cheerleader, a career coach, the ability to delegate, and much, much more!

Recognizing the need to ask for help is the first step. Then create a plan to ask.

  • Who do I need to ask? (manager, partner, myself, support system)
  • What do I need to ask (See your own needs inventory)
  • Can I provide a possible solution?

Practicing saying your ask out loud can help make you feel more comfortable. It is okay to ask for what you need and what you want!

Bonus Tip: Be gentle with yourself and others. This is probably unlike anything you have experienced before, and that’s okay!

If you need more support with this, coaching is a great way to explore so many options! Please schedule a complimentary consult with one of ALV’s awesome Relationship Strategists to identify the best partner for you!

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