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Returning to the office - Make sure that you're ready!

Returning to the office means getting up earlier for many people. No longer rolling out of bed fifteen minutes before the first zoom meeting and putting on a tracksuit, but leaving home on time. ‘’For some, that will be a real switch’’, vitality expert De Vries of Fitter Nederland thinks.

The country is slowly going off the locks. Offices will also open more often. How do you get used to that new routine? And how do you maintain healthy habits? Occupational psychologist Tosca Gort and vitality expert Marije de Vries give advice.

For those who find that difficult, according to De Vries, it is best to build a new morning ritual. ‘’So not just getting up earlier, but also doing something that is the same every day. For example, drinking a cup of coffee or tea by the window, reading the news for a bit, and then go. Make sure you don’t have to hurry after getting up, then that moment automatically becomes more relaxed.’’

Avoid getting overstimulated

Occupational psychologist Gort has great pity for everyone that is returning to an office environment. ‘’That is very outdated’, the founder of Gortgroep thinks. ‘’Hardly anyone can really concentrate in such a large open space. Especially after a period in which everyone has worked quietly from home. Employers need to realise that.’’

But employees that feel distress by the idea of returning to the office environment can do something to alleviate the stress. Gort: ‘’Talk to your manager and arrange a place for yourself. Indicate that you can concentrate better in a small space and propose solutions immediately.’’

Good and clear communication makes everything work. ‘’For example, include what could be the costs for placing cubicles (small, partially enclosed spaces) and if you would be allowed to order them. This way you can avoid that upon returning to the office you are immediately overstimulated.’’

According to Gort, this is the time to reorganise our work. To indicate to your employer that you want to work from home more often, because some aspects of work you prefer to do in silence. Or to hold a walking meeting more often, if you can do this well. Bring the good habits that have arisen this year to the new situation.

‘’Many have developed a new routine at home’’, De Vries comments. ‘’Walking has become the sport of the Netherlands during the pandemic. Great, because it reduces stress and it is healthy’’

Do you want to keep walking every day? Then, according to De Vries, it would be smart to think about how you can do that. ‘’You have to reorganise your environment. Determine beforehand at which moments you can move around. Do you take the train to work and can you walk to the station? Or a walk around the block during lunch break? If you really want to create a new routine, you will have to make time for that. Healthy habits can fade quickly, but by choosing set moments it becomes easier to maintain those.

Merely conversations about KPIs

Finding a combination of movement and rest is important, according to occupational psychologist Gort as well. At companies she works for, she sees a lot of fatigue. ‘’It has been a tough year. Some employees found it difficult to keep work and private life separated and experience symptoms of stress. There are managers who have become too firm and merely talk about KPIs, because there are no conversations about soft skills anymore.’’

That has its repercussions in teams. ‘’Meeting via a screen works works differently. The small personal moments arise in-between or at the coffee machine. I hear a lot of people feel lonely. Those single moments of contact create connections and that feels good for everybody.’’

Best to avoid the subject corona?

Although seeing colleagues again will often be nice, Gort realises that the polarisation in The Netherlands has become too great. The pandemic has proven to be an unprecedented crisis, with very different opinions. That will also permeate the workplace, she expects. ‘’What we have experienced is unprecedented. We have never seen such psychological pressure from above. Everyone deals with that differently. From those who are very anxious about the virus to the group that dismisses corona as nonsense.’’

The question is whether you want to talk about that with colleagues who have a clear opinion. ‘’I think that it is only possible if you can manage to empathise with that person and, without judgment, can discover why he or she sees it from their point of view. At the same time, that is extremely difficult , so sometimes it is better to avoid the subject. So that this period full of changes becomes a pleasant experience for everyone.’’

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