If you have been away from the workplace for some time, you may find your return to work somewhat of a culture shock. Whether you have been away following a long bout of illness, or you have been working remotely or off due to COVID-19, heading back into the office after an extended period away can be very daunting.
You will need to readapt to the working pattern. Your body will have got used to not getting up to go to work. If you have been working from home, you will have adapted to not having other people around you when you are working. If you have been off work, you may not be up to the same pace of work when you go back.
There are lots of adjustments that need to be made before you head back to the office.
In this article, we’ll share some tips for returning to the workplace after a long absence.
Prepare For Your Return To Work Meeting
If you are returning to work following a long bout of illness, then you may struggle with certain aspects of your daily workload at first. You may need a phased return to work where you either come back on reduced hours at first and build back up to your normal work pattern, or you may need to have adjustments made to the type of work that you carry out. Speak with your doctor about your return to work and see if they have any recommendations for any limits you may have. If your phased return to work will be prolonged and there are major changes needed, you may need to ask your employer to consult with an occupational health service about your case.
Prepare for your return to work meeting by gathering up any sick notes and recommendations from healthcare professionals that will affect your ability to work.
Remember to go into the meeting with a positive attitude and be upfront about any medical conditions that will affect you in the workplace. If you do not communicate these now, then they may become an issue in the future.
Prepare Your Body For Your Return
On the run up to your return to work, you should start getting your body into the same routine as it would if you were working. If you haven’t already been doing so, get up at the time that you would need to if you were going to work.
Get washed and dressed and eat breakfast to the same schedule as you might if you were leaving the house and going to work. This will help you to adjust to getting ready in the morning again and it won’t be such a shock to the system when you start having to go back to work.
Prepare To Have A Shorter Fuse
If you have been out of the office for a considerable length of time, you won’t be used to the pace of the work anymore. You will also not be used to working with others. You may also be feeling stressed or anxious about your return to work. It is good to try and identify how you are feeling before you return as otherwise, you may find that your emotions run away with you and leave you with a shorter fuse than normal.
Identify someone that you can talk to about the negative emotions that you may be feeling about going back to work. If possible, have a rant or sound-off in a safe and non-judgmental space away from the workplace so that you don’t carry that negativity into work with you.
If you are coming back to work after the workplace has been closed due to pandemic restrictions, then you may find that you are entering a very different workplace than the one you left. Social distancing measures will be in place and this can lead to additional pressure and stress.
You will slowly adapt to your new norm in the workplace, you will need patience, kindness, and understanding.
Reconnect With Your Team
Workplace connections are important. You need to get on well with the people that you work with for two reasons. Firstly, you will spend a considerable amount of time with these people. Stresses and tensions between you would make for an unbearable workplace environment for both you, and them. Secondly, a team that doesn’t get on is not going to be productive.
When you return to the workplace, take the time to see everyone that you would usually work with an reconnect with them. If at all possible, have a chat over a cup of coffee and work on rebuilding your relationship with them.
Sleep And Eat Well
On the build-up to your return to work, you will want to make sure that you have plenty of energy for your first day back. You can do this by getting into good habits with your eating and sleeping.
Try and get a well-balanced diet on the run up to your return to work. Eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables and focus on foods that are good for the mind such as blueberries, fatty fish, dark chocolate and broccoli.
Make sure that you are getting into a good habit of going to bed early on a night. Start doing this several days before you return to work to get your body clock used to the adjustment. If you can’t sleep at night, think about changing your nighttime routine. Have a bath before going to bed. Read a book instead of using your smartphone or tablet. Sprinkle lavender oil onto your pillow before you go to bed. You may also want to think about meditating late in the evening too, as this will help your body and mind to relax.
Use The Return To Work As An Opportunity For Change
If there is something that you want to improve about the way that you work, now is the time to make these changes. Use your return as being the opportunity to wipe the slate clean and start again.
Speak with your line manager and talk about improvements that you would like to make in your personal performance and discuss how the company can support you in making these changes.
Clear And Tidy Your Desk On Your Return
Chances are that when you return to your office, your desk will look exactly as it did before you left it. If you have been away and life in the office has continued on without you, you may find that there are letters addressed to you that have mounted up. The first thing that you should do is clear your desk and open all of your letters.
Allow yourself a couple of hours to get your desk in order. Having a fresh and tidy desk will help you to unclutter your mind and focus better on the work at hand.
Turn Off Your Email Away Message
If you have had your email away message on while you have been gone, now is the time to turn it off.
Similarly, if your phone has been going to voice mail, you will need to turn this off. Before you do that, take some time to listen to your voicemails and catch up.
Review Your Calendar
When you return to work, you should review your calendar and make a note of any upcoming priorities. You may have meetings to attend or deadlines that you will need to submit work by. Get an idea of what you have coming up over the coming few days and start to structure a plan of how you will address these things.
Don’t Read Your Emails Chronologically
If you have been out of the office for a long time, your emails will no doubt have built up. You may be tempted to read all of your emails in chronological order starting with the oldest first, however, there is a better way of dealing with all of your emails.
Read your emails sorted by either sender or subject rather than by date. This will give you a better idea of what has happened while you have been away from the office rather than when things happened.
Make A To-Do List
As you work through your emails and voicemails, make a focused to-do list that will prioritize all of the things that you need to do.
Note down five of the most important tasks that you need to complete on your first day back and ensure these are on the top of your list.
Leave The Office On Time
Returning to work can be overwhelming. There may be a lot of things on your to-do list and you may feel inclined to stop back and work on so that you can hammer down your list. Just because you have been away from the office for a long time, doesn’t mean that you need to be a hero. Get into the normal workday routine by starting and finishing at the correct times.