Guide to Returning to the Office

It’s been a long haul, right?  The pandemic has hit us all – no matter where we are on the planet and for many, it’s still raging but for us, here in Australia, we can count ourselves as one of the lucky ones!  Life is slowly returning back to normal and with that, it means that the new routines we’ve established for ourselves over the past 14 months will be replaced by adapting old routines.  

Returning to the Office

Life probably won’t ever be completely the same, lots of us are now working from home and this may be a permanent change.  However, some of us simply have no option but to return back to our places of work, particularly in the catering industry.  At Brisk, we’re delighted!  We miss seeing people, we like interacting with our workmates and we love serving you all.  So, it’s time to awaken our alarm clock, stop sleeping in and wave goodbye to spending most of our time at home – we’re ready to get back out there, and start working again.

Are You Mentally Prepared?

Before we take that leap, we also want to make sure that we’re mentally prepared for it.  We’ve all got ridiculously used to our own pandemic routines, which means it’s important to take stock and plan returning to work properly.  We know that for you guys, many of you in your traditional office environments, the 9 to 5pm may well never be the same again and we want to be there for you – not just with our delicious goodies again, but we also want to ease you back in too.  We’ve taken some time to really think about how to prepare for a return to the office and we’d like to share some of our tips with you.  We’ll try and help reduce the stress of it all (and it’s been a stressful 14 months, right?). We’ll also try and give you some suggestions to motivate employees as well as motivate yourselves, and deal with fatigue, it’s tiring getting back to a “new” kind of work!

If You’re an Employer

If you’re an employer, then there are a few things that might help your employees return back to work.  Perhaps you need your staff in the office, working from home simply doesn’t “work” for everyone, as we’ve mentioned.  However, remember, most of your team might have become very used to not working an 8-hour straight shift.  As long as your team got their work done, it didn’t matter when they did it.  Remember, like you, they probably fitted tasks around the kids, their other commitments, and their partners too.  Those first few days, even weeks back in the office, might be tough for some. Cut some slack, expect some tired employees but give it time and we’re sure things will smooth themselves out nicely.

Talking and Listening

Getting back into a routine isn’t always easy especially when people haven’t been in the same office for months on end.  It’s unsettling, particularly if the staff numbers have been cut back due to the pandemic. You might have to rethink your structure, which means that employees may find themselves with a different line manager.  The important thing here is not to let morale drop too much.  Communication is key – talk to your staff, let them know that you’re there for them, if they need you.  Have an “open door” policy so they feel at ease discussing any concerns.  Listen to what they have to say too.  You might even want to send a brief (anonymous) staff survey to find out what morale is like and give you a good idea of what needs to be addressed immediately.  Re-visit the survey in a month’s time. Remember to re-establish goals too and continue to recognise achievement.  As soon as you can – perhaps promise a work get-together or have some Friday drinks and nibbles every week in the office!  Make it a thing – we’d love to cater it 😊

Along with the above, being trusting is important.  Let your team get on with what they have to do, give them space and be patient, especially during those first few weeks back in the office.

If You’re an Employee

This piece isn’t just for employers.  If you work for someone, there’s a lot you can do to embrace a return to the office.  Perhaps you’d rather work from home, but you feel you have no choice – then it’s bound to be tough for you to go back.  Is there any way you can negotiate one or two days working from home?  You might want to raise it with your boss, but don’t jump on it!  Wait a couple of weeks and see how your return to work goes before discussing new work options.  Remember, there are definitely benefits to being in an office!  It’s less insular, you get that office banter, and you forget how many great people you have around you.  Sometimes, it’s just about re-adjustment, once you remember the office fun you used to have, you’ll soon get used to it again.

Get Some Exercise

One of the bonuses of the pandemic was that more and more of us took up exercise. Exercise releases serotonin, the feel-good hormone so it makes us brighter, motivates us to do more and it’s good for us.  Perhaps working from home, you factored in regular exercise but going back to the office means there won’t be as much time to do it.  Well, you need to take some of that working from home discipline and apply it to exercise.  Could you walk to work instead?  Maybe you could bike in (and not the motor kind!)?  Or, get up half an hour earlier and hit the gym first!  According to this https://aifs.gov.au/publications/what-we-did, over lockdown, 57% of people in families exercised alone and 52% exercised with other people in their household. It also says that one in three of us actually found we were exercising more than pre-lockdown. While team sports were out of the picture, biking, walking and ball sports rose in popularity.  There’s no need to stop what you’ve enjoyed, just build in time somewhere else. 

Adopt a Collaborative Approach

One thing that has definitely happened over lockdown is a more collaborative approach to work, that means working together, cross-function.  People have shown just how much they care – about others, but also about keeping their job and never has that been more important!  If you are still employed, we’re sure you’re relieved. It may mean that you need to take on more because your office has loss staff. Harness that as motivation and take that collaborative approach back into the office.  

Finally, if you do have concerns, you’re nervous about returning to work or you’re not sure how office working will have changed – don’t be afraid to voice your concerns with your leaders either.  Remember, they’ve also been through the pandemic and work will have changed for them too.  By working together – you will make your office or place of work a brilliant place to be once again.

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