Returning to the Workplace and Navigating the “New Normal”
Updated: Jan 30
The year 2023 swiftly approached us, but it feels like we are still processing 2020. As you hurriedly grabbed your laptop and other stray belongings from your desk in March of that year, you thought you would be working from home for “just a few weeks.” Who could have possibly imagined that those few weeks would turn into 18 months and counting?
Switching to remote work had its fair share of challenges, but we soon learned how to adapt. You set up your makeshift home office on the kitchen table or corner of the living room. Your team stayed connected through virtual happy hours and reached career milestones over Zoom. All of these strange new methods of working started to become familiar. Just as you began to get into a groove, a new email from HR pops up in your inbox titled “Return to Office Plans,” and suddenly, you brace for another “new normal” yet again.
What exactly is the “new normal?” You might have heard this phrase tossed around in your corporate job, on the news, and in daily conversation, trying to put into words the exponential shift we went through as a society. The precursor to this “new normal” phrase? “Unprecedented times.” Many emails began with “I hope you’re doing well and staying safe during these unprecedented times!” How else could we soften the blow as we had to continue to take meetings and tackle projects during a global pandemic? When we finally realized this would be continuing longer than expected, we eased into this “new normal” period as best as possible. Normal life as we knew it before March 2020 was never coming back, which for many, is a tough pill to swallow, but for others, can also be somewhat refreshing.
What the New Normal Might Look Like for You
It is likely that the situation you were in pre-pandemic has changed, whether it be drastically or slightly. Here are some different scenarios people might be going through now or in the near future, and some considerations to keep in mind.
Returning to the Office Full-Time
When you received that return to office email, your employer really meant business. If you have to report to work in person full-time, your job might be in an industry that truly needs face-to-face collaboration and participation to optimally function, such as education and healthcare. However, some companies might be more traditional in nature, wanting things to truly just go back to the way they were, while also being able to keep a close eye on employees.
Hybrid Work Schedule
Many companies are adopting what is known as a “hybrid” work schedule, allowing employees to work some days in the office and some days at home. Since many of us value flexibility now more than ever, it’s a good compromise that can afford more work/life balance and cut down on time spent commuting into an office. At the same time, there is still room for in-person connection, client meetings, and most importantly, real happy hours! Hybrid schedules can be messy and confusing at first, as teammates figure out how to sync up in the office on the same days, leadership determines just how flexible everyone’s schedules should really be, and we figure out how to adjust to two different modalities of working at the same time.
Continuing to Stay Remote
Whether your company has decided to stay fully remote for good, you have always worked remote, or if you have found a new remote job, the pandemic has further cemented that employees can thrive and achieve massive success from anywhere. If remote work is still fairly new to you, take time to create daily routines and habits that set you up for a good day. If you are feeling lonely and miss seeing coworkers, seek resources for fellow remote workers, join networking groups, and carve even more time out for family and friends.
Navigating a Completely New Path
The person you were pre-pandemic is likely not the same person you are today. With more time to reflect, slow down, and contemplate what’s important to you, it’s no wonder you would experience and even crave change. Whether it’s switching jobs, embarking on a totally different career, moving to a new location, ending a relationship, or starting a family, you might have realized that what you were doing and how you were living was no longer serving you. Congratulations on making space for new experiences to enter into your life!
Preparing for Change
No matter what your new normal looks like, here are some overall tips to get through this next chapter:
Prepare Mentally: Take time to process the changes you will be experiencing and reorient yourself with what a typical day looked like when you went to the office.
Self-Care: Whatever self-care looks like for you, from a facial, to a manicure, to a quick walk around your neighborhood, make it a priority so that you can approach your new normal with a sense of inner calm.
Adjust Your Sleep Schedule: Working remotely may have afforded us a little extra snooze time, but if you are headed back to the office, this could be a shock to the system when you have to resume your morning commute. Start setting your alarm for a few minutes earlier each day, gradually working up to your original wake-up time.
Check in with Yourself and Others: Be honest about how you are feeling about these new changes, and know that you are not the only one who might feel overwhelmed, anxious, and apprehensive about having to change your way of life again. Make sure to still prioritize your other responsibilities and passions outside of work, and connect with others who are going through the same experience.
Prepare your Belongings: On a more practical level, don’t forget your stuff! If you’re returning to the office, be sure to dig out your company ID card, grab your work laptop and charger, pack lunch/snacks, and bring any other items you would typically take to work.
Have Patience: While you might be groaning about the thought of returning to your cubicle, know that there are teams of people in your organization who have spent countless hours trying to come up with equitable, safe and logical plans for your return. Add in ever-changing COVID restrictions, and those plans might have been changed and redone numerous times. We are all going through internal and external struggles, and having compassion for ourselves and others can go a long way in making things go more smoothly.
Ultimately, transitions are HARD, but that doesn’t mean you have to go at them alone. When you partner with one of our coaches, we help you see that no matter what your situation looks like right now, YOU have the power to choose what the end result will be. With this choice comes freedom, and soon you’ll be creating a “new normal” that is better than you ever thought possible!