For many North American workers, things have been quite difficult over the last year and a half. With revolving lockdowns and varying degrees of working from home, pursuing larger career goals may have been put on hold for many, and even derailed for others.
Now that life in many parts is well on the way to returning to normal, whatever that means anymore, we’re now facing a new decision: do we return to in-person work, or stay remote?
Benefits of continuing to work from home after the pandemic
In December 2020, PEW Research Center released a study indicating about half of the polled remote workers are experiencing more flexibility and would prefer to continue working from home after the pandemic is over.
Of those who have continued working in person, the study also revealed many were concerned about virus exposure.
As more workers consider returning to work in person, it’s natural to have some worries and anxiety about your health and safety. This reintegration process won’t be straightforward and there are potential risks no matter the decision.
In addition, if you do decide to return to in-person working, there could be a sense of loss. You are potentially reintroducing a stressful commute, a tighter schedule, more hustle and those in-person meetings, which always seem to drag on.
Advantages of returning to in-person work after the pandemic
Many of us have noticed a distinct lack of separation between work and life since the pandemic struck, and this has been even more pronounced for families with children navigating remote learning or closed daycares. In these cases, returning to in-person work will help bring work and life back into precious balance.
And for those extraverts who have been feeling the isolation and quietness in ways introverts can never understand, returning to the workplace means reconnecting with friends and co-workers. Although it may take some time for everyone to become re-socialized, face-to-face communication and connection are important for camaraderie and can even boost motivation.
On the practical side, our bodies and minds often respond well to getting up at the same time every day and maintaining a routine. It’s likely your daily routine has become somewhat scattered in the throes of pandemic life.
Exploring the hybrid post-pandemic work schedule
For many, returning to work full-time in person has proven unnecessary and restrictive. If you’re dreaming about a hybrid work scenario, you’re not alone. Many organizations are considering hybrid models since so much of what many of us do can be done remotely, it turns out.
Depending on how flexible your workplace is, you may be able to create a schedule where you come in some days and work remotely on others.
If you’re thinking about approaching your employer about a hybrid work model, make sure to go into the discussion prepared to advocate for why this arrangement will benefit both you and your company. When you demonstrate your commitment to your organization’s success, you give your boss confidence that you’ve thought through your position and have considered how it can work for you, your team and your organization.
It may also be the case that your direct reports are approaching you about a more flexible work model. If you’re looking for ways to support this as either a transition period or a permanent situation, think about how to create open communications systems for both in-office and remote employees. It will also be important to consider how to make work events more inclusive so everyone has the opportunity to stay connected and engaged, no matter the physical distance between them.
Tips for making returning to work easier
As we consider the next steps for our careers and work-life in general, it’s important to acknowledge and accept that our lives may not return to pre-pandemic normal. Many of us have been out of the regular flow of things for some time, and it’s important to give ourselves time to adjust as we reintegrate with our co-workers and society in general.
Anxiety can play a big part in our work stress, and there are many potential triggers spread out like invisible landmines outside of our safe-havens. Start slow and give yourself grace. And remember to give others grace, empathy and lots of space. We don’t know what others have been through these past 15 months, and we’ve all responded differently to the pandemic.
If you’re feeling good about returning to work in person, look for ways to maintain your positive mindset and avoid cynical or negative discussions with your co-workers, which will serve to drain your reserves. Be proactive about making this transition work.
If you’re feeling nervous about work returning to normal, try and find a way to speak with your superior about the situation. Explore whether or not it’s possible for you to continue working from home, or if your company would consider a hybrid work model. Approach the situation with solutions, not complaints.
At the end of the day, when you understand your unique needs for your work situation, you’ll be better prepared to advocate for yourself. Try and use this difficult situation as an opportunity to grow as a professional and mature as a person.