Jolanta Burke - Department of Education
5 tips to adjust to life in the post-pandemic office

Apart from planning for change, remember to plan for obstacles and ways in which you can overcome them, writes Dr Jolanta Burke, Department of Education

What makes human beings resilient is our ability to adapt. We adapt to positive events in our lives, which is why what made us happy yesterday may no longer make us happy today. We also adapt to negative life circumstances, which is why the vast majority of us will bounce back after adversity. Nonetheless, the limbo between the change occurring and the adaptation can be frustrating for many. The longer it lasts, the worse it makes us feel. This is why it is important to figure out what we can do to adapt smoothly to our changed circumstances having returned to the workplace after a pandemic break.

Covid has caused a lot of disruption in our daily lives, from the way we socialise with others, care for our children and shop to the way we work. Some claim that the changes will be lasting. Others say that we will soon return to what we used to do and not much will have changed.

Given that we are supposed to be wise people as homo sapiens, we need to learn from our experience and grow post-pandemic, rather than repeat the patterns regardless of how useful they are for us. Here are five evidence-based tips on what you can do to reduce the period of uncertainty while adjusting back into office-life after Covid.

Reflect on what happened

All of us had very different experiences during Covid. Some of us enjoyed working from home, having our children around and being able to eat home-cooked meals all day. Others found it restrictive and missed their me-time, or interaction with colleagues.

Regardless of your circumstances and reactions, before you go back to the office, think about what has worked for you during Covid and what aspects of working from home you would like to introduce in your post-Covid office life. Was it the lack of commuting? If so, can you make flexible working arrangement with your employer? Was it online meetings? If so, can you continue meeting some of your colleagues or clients online thus reducing your travel time? Reflect on the silver linings during Covid and try to tweak your new post-Covid office life accordingly.

Cut down on pointless meetings

We tended to have more meetings and worked longer hours compared with pre-Covid times. Partially, this may have been due to the guilt we felt when putting on the laundry during the day, or the fact that we didn't need to walk to a meeting, but sat at the same desk for hours of rolling meetings in the afternoon. At the same time, during Covid, our meetings were on average shorter than pre-Covid.

But when you are back in the office, things will change. This is why it is good to come up with a plan about how many meetings a day you are capable of having to make sure you don't overdo it. Can you reduce your meetings by one a day? What can you do to ensure you continue with shorter meetings? These are some of the decisions you need to make when planning to get back into the post-Covid office.

Time to sleep

During the pandemic, we slept longer in the morning and 42% of us abandoned our alarm clocks. We didn't need to worry about commuting or preparing lunch for work, so we woke up on average an hour later during the work day. At the same time, we went to bed 48 minutes later than usual. Our weekend catch-up sleep was also reduced during Covid, as we no longer needed it, all of which we need to take into consideration when going back to the office. What changes should you introduce in your sleep hygiene to ensure you get enough hours of sleep? Do you need to go to bed earlier? Make sure you plan for it to avoid unnecessary tiredness.

Keep up physical activity

Many people reported that they had more time for physical activity during the pandemic. Research with school leaders who returned to work last September indicated that many of them have stopped exercising. Coincidently, those who experienced higher levels of wellbeing during Covid spent more time outside, walking, running or simply gardening. This is why it's crucial to plan for your physical activity after getting back to work post-Covid. Can you cycle to work? Can you walk to the station instead of driving? Will you start taking the stairs, instead of the lift?

Stick to a routine

Research indicates that those who adjusted best to changed circumstances after the outbreak of Covid have also actively worked on changing their daily routine. This may be related to the breaks they took during the day, to the meetings they arranged to avoid screen-time overload, or switching off their devices at a specific time to clearly distinguish between work- and play-times. The same applies to getting back to the office. Your routine will need to adjust so that you can promptly adapt to changed circumstances. What new routine will you introduce in your post-Covid office that will work for you best?

These are just some of the tips that can help us adjust better in getting back to the post-Covid office. Apart from planning for change, remember to plan for obstacles and ways in which you can overcome them. After all, failing to prepare, results in preparing to fail.

(Front Photo by Maxime on Unsplash)