Transitioning back to the office

As restrictions have started to ease in recent weeks, many of us have returned to our workplaces, visited friends and family members again, and slowly returned to a more interactive lifestyle.

While there may be relief in emerging from enforced restrictions, transitioning back to a pre-COVID routine can also be fraught with insecurity, fear and confusion. Psychologists compare the effect to a “reverse culture shock” to describe the challenges brought on by confronting yet another change process as we re-enter the outside world after weeks of closing our doors to it.

Here are some actions and behaviours that can help you to re-acclimatise:

  • Maintain hobbies and positive habits you have re-connected with or taken up in recent weeks. Maybe you have used the time spent at home to explore creative activities such as painting, photography, playing an instrument or writing a blog or journal. Others have enjoyed baking or cooking new recipes, spending more time gardening, or getting lost in jigsaw puzzles and family board games. As you are spending more time outside the home again, make sure you don’t abandon these newfound hobbies and activities that have brought you joy and purpose.
  • Celebrate your workplace relationships. One of the main perks of going back to the office involves being around your team members, special colleagues and work friends again. While physical distancing rules are still in place, enjoy the social activities which have been absent over the last three months or so. Take the time to have a personal chat with a colleague, or visit your favourite café together for lunch or coffee.
  • Check in with each other. Workplaces can be a valuable resource for people to receive emotional support and engage in meaningful and positive relationships. Mentally healthy workplaces boost people’s resilience and contribute to their psychological wellbeing by providing opportunity for professional and personal growth, social connectedness and purpose. Such workplaces are created by the cumulative effect of everyone’s actions and contributions. Make sure you look out for your colleagues: take the time to ask others how they are going, genuinely listen with empathy, and offer support where you can.
  • Look after your (and everyone else’s) health. Spread kindness and compassion but not the coronavirus and other bugs such as the flu. Remember to greet others non-physically, keep washing your hands regularly for at least 20 seconds, avoid touching your face, wipe down work surfaces after using them, observe maximum capacity for offices, meetings rooms and lifts, and follow any other precautions and health-related policies in your workplace.
  • Remember that everyone’s experience is different. While we all have had to deal with COVID-19 and its ramifications to our personal and professional lives, everyone has their own story and personal set of challenges to manage. For example, people with small children at home, elderly or sick relatives to look after, financial worries or underlying health issues will have a very different experience to those who do not have these factors in their lives. Some people enjoyed working from home and could have gone on for longer, others missed the social contact or struggled with self-discipline and productivity when working out of their living rooms. For some, anxiety levels and mood regulation issues have increased, making them feel on edge, fearful or overwhelmed – while others feel excited by the prospect of lifting restrictions. Keep in mind that while we are all in this together, everyone has their own perspective and filters through which we see and experience the world: while we are all in the same storm, we are not travelling in the same boat.

Please remember that it is completely normal to experience a variety of emotions upon returning to work after having been away for many weeks. You may have developed new habits and practices, and maybe your expectations and preferences have changed. Moving back to the office environment can feel like a further challenging transition to manage.

Reach out to others and seek support if you need it. As a member of QLS, you can access LawCare to obtain free, professional, confidential and personalised assistance and advice.

If you would like to learn more, don’t hesitate to reach out to the QLS Solicitor Support service on or p. 3842 5843 to speak to someone in a judgement-free and supportive environment.

Rebecca Niebler is QLS’s Organisational Culture and Support Officer, QLS Solicitor Support (QLS Ethics and Practice Centre)

16 June 2020

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