How to prepare for your eventual return to the office

As recently as Two months ago, the 5 mile drive from the heart of Washington, DC to my home in Arlington, Virginia consistently took less than 10 minutes door-to-door, even in the middle of rush hour. Now that same 5 mile journey can take up to 40 minutes. Gone are also the days when I could make a quick stop at Trader Joe’s on the way home, find parking on the street in front of the store, and get in and out with the groceries in under 20 minutes.

As more and more employers demand that workers return to the office, even if only a few times a week, it is likely that all the boring aspects of our pre-pandemic life will start to come back into our lives again – hectic morning routines, traffic, boring coworkers, limited time for groceries and even less time for exercise. All of the healthy habits we created during the pandemic – time for morning meditation, afternoon runs, and evening family dinners – will also be turned upside down.

“Most people have been working from home for 18 months, and they’ve gotten used to their new ways and are reluctant to change them again,” says Kalina J. Michalska, assistant professor of psychology at UC Riverside. “We were able to get rid of the inconvenience of traveling and working in an office environment, where we have to adapt to the perspectives and goals of our colleagues. “

In fact, during the pandemic, we spent less time driving to the office or around town shopping and more time pursuing our personal passions. Time spent traveling, such as commuting to work or going to a store, fell by 26 minutes, from an average of 1.2 hours per day in 2019 to 47 minutes per day in 2020, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Americans have used the time they don’t have to get to work doing things they love. In 2020, leisure time increased by an average of 37 minutes per day for men and 27 minutes for women, according to the same study.

This could explain why many people are anxious or annoyed about going back to the office. “Not only are our routines disrupted again, but we are going back to work and school while there is still a huge sense of uncertainty,” says Michele Nealon, president of the Chicago School of Professional Psychology. For example, not all employers have decided exactly when workers will return to the office or how many days per week they should come. Even if your manager allows you to continue working from home, you may be concerned about the effect of working remotely. get on your career opportunities if some of your coworkers go to the office when you aren’t, she says.

Many employees also fear the Delta variant, a mutation of Covid-19 considered to be more contagious than the first strain of the virus. Some companies, including Google and Apple, have pushed back their return to office dates from September to at least October, and Amazon has pushed back their return to office until January 2022.

“Employees have to come to terms with the fact that whatever the rules for returning to the office now – say, two days a week, with masks – will likely change over time,” says Nancy halpern, founder of Political IQ, a New York-based management consulting firm that helps organizations solve office politics. While employers struggle to understand how workers should return to the office, employees will need to be patient, she says. “You won’t go back to the professional life you had before,” says Halpern. “The professional life you are going to lead will not be settled. It will be frustrating. “

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