Smart ways to boost your wellbeing when you return to the office

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After more than a year of remote working, it’s no surprise that many of us have mixed feelings about returning to the office. Here, we share eight tips for smoothing your way back into the workplace

As employees around the world make a gradual return to their offices, it’s no surprise that, for many, this will be associated with feelings of stress.

From concern about the risk of catching Covid-19 to feeling nervous about face-to-face interactions with colleagues you haven’t seen in 12 months, there are lots of reasons why heading back to your company HQ might spark anxiety.

If you’re feeling worried, rest assured you’re not alone – and check out these handy hints for boosting your physical and mental wellbeing during this period of transition.

1. Get vaccinated

It’s an obvious one, but the best way to protect against catching Covid-19 is to get vaccinated. Some employers may even demand it of new hires, saying, “No jab, no job”. Even though some people have concerns about the side effects, it is the most socially responsible thing to do and will help minimise the risk of you or your colleagues getting ill. It will also open up the ability to travel quarantine-free on business trips.

2. Get a bike

For some people, going to the office is associated with a long, uncomfortable commute. If you feel confident about cycling, though, and it’s an option for you, why not travel by bike? In the UK, the government is subsidising the cost of bikes and cycle gear with its new Bike2Work scheme for both employers and employees.

Meanwhile, the concept of the 15-Minute City is informing policy making around the world. Originally the brainchild of Professor Carlos Moreno of the Sorbonne, it’s an ideal that will see cities and towns transformed into patchworks of neighbourhoods where everything residents need to live, work and play is accessible within 15 minutes on foot or by bike.

3. WFH – or from near home – part-time

In the wake of Covid-19, companies around the world are embracing a hybrid model of working. Employees of firms as diverse as Microsoft, Barclays Bank and Google will have the freedom to split their time between the office, home and a location close to home, such as a Spaces centre.

For many people this will help with the psychological transition, as well as managing the practicalities of childcare. It will also lessen the cost of commuting.

4. Upgrade your hygiene amenities

Even if you have been vaccinated, wearing a good mask such as one from Airinum on public transport, and investing in a bottle of special hand sanitiser from the likes of Aesop or Cowshed, plus some anti-viral wipes, will mean you can keep yourself and your desk clean and fresh. Treating yourself to nice-smelling products will also make regular sanitising feel more like little moments of self-care. As those old adverts used to say: you’re worth it.

5. Protect your boundaries

Depending on where in the world you work, and how touchy-feely your colleagues are, you might find that some of the people you encounter at the office are comfortable with handshakes, hugging and even kisses on the cheek. If you’re not ready to get up close and personal with your teammates again, don’t be afraid to politely keep your distance.

Bringing your own laptop to work, avoiding shared IT facilities and even asking for a screen to be put up around your desk are all ways you can help to keep yourself safe, should you wish to. It’s important to understand your own limits, communicating these clearly with your manager so that they can support you.

6. Take a self-care lunch break

Make the most of your working day in town by taking a self-care ‘power hour’ in the middle of the day. Don’t eat at your desk – go out and splurge on a nutritious poké bowl, sit in the sun and meditate, meet a friend, book a massage, have a mani, try acupuncture, swim or slay a workout.

Even if you’re a convert to home working, taking advantage of going out to the office or a local flexspace in this way will add variety and indulgence to your week.

7. Create a lean schedule

Finding yourself thrown back into a world of face-to-face meetings can be tiring, so go easy on the appointments. Make sure you keep at least three weekday evenings clear of events so you have time to spend on yourself and your interests. With that in mind, relationships with colleagues are important to maintain, and the occasional after-work drink or lunch will go miles towards keeping these intact.

8. Sleep well

To maintain your immunity and stay feeling positive, make sure you get at least seven hours of good quality sleep a night, ideally going to bed no later than 10pm. Tiredness rapidly diminishes productivity and mental resilience. Don’t work late unless it is absolutely imperative.

Above all, be kind to yourself – remember that no two people are the same, and that everyone will deal with the reopening of workplaces differently.

Fortunately for many, though, the rise of the hybrid work model means benefiting from the best of all worlds. It allows for a mix of office, home and local working that leaves more room than ever for creating the work-life balance that’s right for you.

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