contributed by Bonny Bunson
This blog post is all about tips for transitioning from remote work or telework to being back at the office. We can all agree that 2020 through 2021 was incredibly challenging in so many ways related to COVID-19. As a practicing corporate attorney who always worked from the office at least 5 days a week, transitioning to telework and then back to the office was a major adjustment. From my personal experience, here are a few tips that helped me return from teleworking to being at the office all while staying productive, efficient, happy, and healthy!
Wardrobe and Shoes
Tip One: Invest in professional clothes and footwear that are comfortable. Staying in my pj’s or wearing gym wear all day was wonderful, even when I needed to throw on blazers over my pj’s/gym wear for virtual meetings. As a professional woman, I always wear a tailored suit or dress to the office with amazing heels. I must admit though, as much as I love dressing up, transitioning from all day pj’s/gym wear to suits and heels again was a big change. While I was teleworking, I had an immigration matter I was handling that required me to drive to the nearest international airport, so that I could meet with a U.S. Customs and Border Control Officer with my client. I hadn’t worn a suit or put on a pair of heels for work in months! And you can imagine how jarring it was to be at an international airport with zero travelers and no luggage in sight. This experience was a snapshot of what I knew would eventually come – transitioning from comfy clothes back to suits and heels again. To give myself an easy transition back to the office, I invested in comfortable professional clothes and shoes. I started wearing more dresses that I could throw on easily instead of having to button up two-piece suits, and I exchanged my 5-inch stilettos for more comfortable yet still fashionable heels, like Alterre footwear. For example, my Alterre Stiletto Mules in white with a 3-inch heel are cushioned for all day comfort. Plus, Alterre’s innovative shoe design allows me to wear these stilettos with any Alterre strap to convert my mules into stylish ankle strap mules or with additional colors and textures like my Grace in Cow Strap (black & white) and Marilyn Strap (ankle tie). I literally have three pairs of shoes in one that are comfortable for the office.
Tip Two: Bring beauty to the office. So many of us had to create a home office while working remotely. At home, I needed more space and a designated area for my laptop and files. As much as I tried to do everything electronically, I still needed original filings, contracts to be signed, etc. You can imagine some days were messier than others, but workspace was needed, and I tried to keep it as organized and presentable at home as possible. Transitioning back to the office provided me with more space and the luxury of having my dual screened desktop, large desks, scanner, printer, and all the other office amenities that I didn’t have at home. However, being back at work and not surrounded by home comforts was an adjustment, so when I returned to the office, I used some pots to plant flowers, tomatoes, and red peppers on my office window sill to bring some beauty and life to my office. Creating a beautiful space at the office makes me feel more at home.
Tip Three: Socialize. We’re meant to be with others, not alone. I’m an introvert. While I missed my colleagues, I had no problem working from home when I knew meetings and court hearings could be held virtually or by phone. Working from home in many ways allowed me to be more productive – I didn’t waste time in the mornings to dress up or drive to/from the office. I used my extra time to answer emails more quickly, and I loved that I could make myself an espresso anytime while working instead of having to purchase one at Starbucks, using valuable time and money. I was happy working from home because I’m an introvert. After returning to the office, I was socializing a lot more by seeing my colleagues in the hallways and elevators and having many office visits, all of which I enjoy but that take up my energy. To transition from no in-person socialization to seeing my colleagues all over the place was a huge adjustment; I needed to create some time alone to stay productive, efficient, and social while not being rude. So, I discovered that I could shut my office door more often or go for an easy walk outside. If you’re an extrovert and enjoy more socialization, you could schedule lunches with others or take refreshing coffee breaks with your colleagues. Being social at the office is important for work relations and team building, but knowing your needs and how to approach them in advance is a good way to transition from working by yourself at home to being at the office bustling with people.
Tip Four: Have a flexible work schedule if available. When federal and state restrictions were being loosened, I returned to the office in July of 2020 – that’s over a year ago! Thankfully, I have had a lot of flexibility between days of teleworking and being at the office. I did not return from full-time teleworking to being full-time at the office. I transitioned myself by working two days at home and three days at work for many months. That flexibility helped me to gradually relearn my work routine. Now, I am comfortably working at the office at least 5 days a week despite still enjoying the option of telework.
Tip Five: Be prudent, not paranoid. It was scary to return to the office while people were still contracting COVID-19 all over the world. But I also acknowledged my need for normalcy. We can’t live in perpetual fear because it can have crippling effects. When I returned to work, I was diligent in following our safety protocols and the recommended CDC guidelines. And also, the best thing I could do for myself was to stay positive!