Ten Tips to Help You Return to the Office Confidently

Returning to the office after months or even years of working from home due to the pandemic can feel daunting. Our anxiety may spike at the thought of commuting, team lunches and office small talk while a lack of face-to-face contact and endless video calls may have left us unsettled and in need of a confidence boost.    

To help ease workers into a new routine, we spoke with psychologist and member of SmileDirectClub’s Confidence Council, Dr Linda Papadopoulos, and she has put together 10 tips to help reinvigorate employees who need to find their confident stride when setting foot back in the office.  

1)Remember that change naturally causes anxiety but that equally we only grow and develop when we feel a little anxious and come out of our comfort zone.

Changing our daily routines can be unsettling and once inside an office, we can feel that we’re no longer in a comfortable environment and this puts us on edge. Make this easier by ensuring that you give yourself time to re-adjust, just as you would as if you were starting a new job; try bringing in some items from your home environment whether its photos, plants, music you listen to on headphones if this helps your creativity/ concentration, and remember anxiety is usually quick to subside.      

2) Try to hold on to the best parts of working from home.

The pandemic forced a huge experiment upon the nation to quickly adapt to new ways of working so it’s possible you learned a lot about what makes you more productive. If you were going for a walk at lunchtime while working from home, try to re-establish these beneficial habits as if they were new and remember you have control over implementing them into your new routine. Feel confident about discussing this with your manager, many companies are aware that going back to the office may feel challenging so discussing with them the things that will help you will actually help them support your transition back.  

3) Don’t try to do too much on day one.

Don’t feel pressured to establish all your new habits in one go. If you want to start as you mean to go on by spending your lunchtime in the gym, or going for a walk and finding a healthy lunch option, that’s great but realise it’s hard to create a new routine. These things can take time to build into our lives so think about one step each week, rather than trying to pack it all at once. Remember the best way to establish a new behaviour and reach a goal is to break it down into realistic and manageable steps.   

4) Feel confident to ask to work from home.

If you want to continue working from home for part of the week then you should ask for that. You should feel confident to set up a meeting with your manager and talk through the reasons why it made you more productive or helped your time-management. Prepare for the conversation ahead of time because if you’re confident when you ask, you’re much more likely to get what you want.   

5) Ask for support.

Chances are you’re not the only one feeling anxious about returning to the office and this is where employers have a part to play in facilitating support. No one is fragile or has bad coping skills if they’re struggling with the new routine. Ask a manager about setting up a support group to talk about why it’s uncomfortable which will help immediately establish that change can be hard for everyone. It’s critical that you are clear about what works best for you in terms of your ability to be productive and creative and to be clear about the ways that you feel your employer can help you.      

6) Recognise boundaries may have changed.

Video meetings have given us a view into our colleagues’ homes we would never have received pre-pandemic and this may have shifted our boundaries. But it’s important to remember that just as before, tolerance and acceptance in the workplace go a long way to providing a productive and enjoyable working environment, and that office gossip produces the opposite.  

7) Be ready and go in prepared.

If you’re feeling nervous about speaking up in meetings now they’re happening face to face, you should prepare so you have an idea of what you want to say and think about how you want to articulate your point. Once we express something with confidence, it is much easier for the other person to absorb and accept it. It may help to remind yourself of times in the past when you have been able to do this and see it as a matter of being out of practice to avoid self-limiting thoughts like ‘I can’t do this’.  

8) Remind yourself of why you’re good at your job.

While working from home, there’s no chance the CEO will walk past the door as we give a presentation but when we’re back in the office, we’re more exposed among senior staff. If this makes you worried, remember why you got the job in the first place. Read through your past appraisals and remind yourself why you were given your job on merit.  One of the great things about being back in an office environment are the opportunities for ad-hoc learning and mentoring. Speak to colleagues that inspire you, ask questions and make a point of connecting with your team, this will all help in terms of settling back in as well as professional growth.  

9) Use the new face to face routine to your advantage.

Video calls make it harder to read body language and it’s much easier to be distracted while speaking online. But in face-to-face meetings, we can become far more attuned to the other person’s stance and respond more appropriately. Use this chance not only to learn and grow professionally but also to show your manager what you are bringing to the team, this will ultimately hold you in good stead when it’s time to decide whether to ask for the pay-rise or promotion you have been waiting for.       

10) Recognise what’s in your control.

We have a perception sometimes that we can’t control our working day but our anxiety will naturally start to reduce if we recognise that while we can’t control everything, we can certainly control how we react to things that are happening. We can always take control of certain aspects of our experience. It’s up to us what we wear, how prompt we want to be, how we respond to our colleagues and how we broach complex situations with our managers. We know that people who exert their influence are able to moderate their negative feelings around change, and more importantly, feel more adequate about their ability to cope.   

Sophia Anderson

Sophia Anderson is a blogger and a freelance writer. She is passionate about covering topics on money, business, careers, self-improvement, motivation and others. She believes in the driving force of positive attitude and constant development.