Career Advice

How to Transition Back into the Workplace

Many companies are transitioning their employees from remote positions back into the office. Find the best tips to prep for this change here.

Michael Yan Leila Le
Published: (Updated: ) - 6 min read
Michael Yan is the co-founder & CEO of Simplify. Previously a software engineer at Meta, Michael dropped out of Stanford to found Simplify. He is a part-time career coach & Y Combinator alum.

Photo by Mario Gogh / Unsplash

As we move out of the pandemic, most companies are asking remote employees to return to the office at least part-time. After what has been years of remote work for many of us, having a successful transitioning back to an in-person workplace can cause feelings of uncertainty and concern.

Returning to the office can certainly be intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. There are plenty of benefits to returning to the office and they can make the transition easier and more productive. With that in mind, we’ve put together our top tips for approaching the transition back into a physical work environment and managing difficult feelings around it.

Practice Compassion

Here’s the thing, you’re probably not the only one feeling weird about going back to the office after much time. Chances are everyone’s a little off-kilter. Neither you nor your colleagues are likely to get everything smooth from the first day. With that in mind, a little compassion can go a long way to easing the transition.

It’s cliché, but true – the golden rule is essential. Treating your coworkers with respect and understanding can go a long way in helping you adapt to new environments and workplace dynamics. Plus, empathizing with others will make your office a much better place to work.

Re-familiarize yourself with the office environment and the people in it. Look into employee perks and learn more about the office culture. Spend time getting to know your colleagues and their roles within the company. Find out what they’re working on and ways in which you can collaborate!

Anxious about inevitable small-talk? 

Small-talk is essential to creating a healthy work environment and helping transition back into the office. It’s inevitable you’ll encounter situations where engaging in small-talk is necessary. Small-talk can be hard if you’ve forgotten how to engage in it and are feeling anxious.

To start, try to focus on open-ended questions that require more than just a yes or no answer. Over the last year, we’ve all had a different experience of the pandemic and asking about those experiences is a great way to break the ice. Additionally, try to make it about them, not you. People like to be asked about their experiences, and likely appreciate you not putting the spotlight on yourself.

Have Realistic Expectations

It may seem like an odd one, but one of the best tips we can offer you on transitioning back into the workplace is to adjust your expectations. A big change like this will require you to be flexible and open. To do that, it’s important to set realistic expectations about what returning to the office will be like, how well you’ll manage it, or the challenges you'll encounter. If you can go in with zero expectations, all the better, but we’re talking about being realistic here so best to practice that from the jump.

Take a second to scan your mind and notice any expectations you may have about going back, be they positive or negative. Try, if you can, to let them go. However way you cut it, your schedule and routines will need to shift. Making that adjustment will be far easier if you drop some expectations you may have on yourself to get it all perfect.

Returning to the office also provides the perfect opportunity to explore new methods of working and adopting new technologies that can make day-to-day tasks easier and more efficient. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different approaches to work and explore the different technologies available.

Don’t Neglect Self-Care

A common experience for people as they head back into the workplace is losing sight of self-care practices. Transitioning back into the office will inevitably mean that you’re busier than before and it’s easy to compromise on self-care as you try to juggle that. As we’ve said though, this transition can be stressful, and making time for self-care, be it exercise, taking a break, or seeing friends, can go a long way in improving how you feel.

Make sure to set aside a few minutes of your day for self-care and be sure to take the time to recognize the moments where you feel overwhelmed or frustrated due to the change. During those times, tuning in to how you’re feeling, your mental health, and being kind to yourself can give you the ability to keep going, even when it feels like too much.

It’s important to establish a good work-life balance when transitioning back into the office. Going back to the office should mean that you’re able to focus on both your personal and professional life more easily. This means setting limits for yourself on when to stop and unwind and when to focus on work. Talk to your boss about working hours, boundaries, and expectations to make sure everyone is on the same page. You don’t want to burn out or feel overwhelmed by work.

Not sure where to get started for self-care? Here are a few ideas. 

  • Eat nourishing foods and stay hydrated
  • Get plenty of sleep
  • Exercise a few times a week
  • Stay in communication with people you trust
  • Take short moments to pause and breathe
  • Create a wind-down routine before bed

As with anything, we are all different and our personal self-care practices will be varied. Don’t be afraid to explore what works best for you and adjust accordingly as needed.

Pick Out Professional Outfits

Let’s be honest, most of us have been living out the whole work-from-home thing in our sweats. Unless you have a very casual office, a return to the workplace probably means a return to more professional outfits. The problem is, many of us have forgotten how to put a professional outfit together. Your body might have changed, your style, or even your job title since you last had to put on a blazer or a smart set of trousers.

As you transition back into the office working, the best way to lessen the stress of decision-making when it comes to work attire is to do the following.

  1. Figure out what kind of outfits you need. Are there any company-specific requirements? What kind of image do you want to project?
  2. Invest in high-quality pieces that you can wear and mix and match to create different looks.
  3. Try out different combinations before the first day and look for pieces that make you feel both comfortable and confident.

Workwear is a kind of armor for the office. Having your options prepared in advance should cut down on any panic that might arise about getting dressed in the morning and will help you feel more like the part. Clothing is hugely psychological. Dressing like you’re ready for the office can go a long to tricking you into feeling as if you’re ready too.

Give Yourself Time to Prepare in the Mornings

Working from home meant that the longest commute most of us had to take in the mornings was the walk from our bed to our desk (if that). Going back to the office means having to make time again to eat, get dressed, get our things for the day packed, and travel to work. It can feel a little overwhelming at first, which is why it’s so important to set up a morning routine for yourself that gives you ample time to ready yourself for the day.

Rushing in the morning will only add to any stress you may be experiencing about transitioning back into the office. If you can, slow things down. Even including a small moment of mindfulness as you sip your morning coffee could help you center yourself for the day. Exercise, eating well, and planning as much of your morning routine in advance will also help you feel more prepared, and hopefully, counteract some of the anxiety that returning to the office might be causing.

One of the hardest parts of transitioning back into the office is having to get used to an environment that may feel very different from what it was before, as well as having to reconnect with colleagues and teammates.

There are a variety of apps out there that can help make your transition back into the office easier. Here are our favorites: Todoist, Evernote, and Notion.

Find Your Dream Job With Simplify Today!

The past few months of the pandemic have had a huge impact on almost everyone and finding your dream job is no exception. Regardless of whether you were furloughed, lost your job due to the pandemic, or simply realized now is a great time to make a career change your priority; Simplify has your back.

As you transition back into the office, if you find yourself ready to take your career to the next level, don’t forget to check out Simplify’s job listings. With thousands of job postings from top employers in the area, we’re sure you’ll find the perfect role for you.

Ready for a career change? Take Simplify's 30-second job quiz to get matched with positions that fit your interests and skills!