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Going Back to the Office


As the pandemic wanes, workers across the country are preparing to get back to routines. Back to the office, back to the commute, and back to juggling work/life balance. Moving back from a yearlong shift in how you do virtually everything may not be an overnight transition. Here are some ideas to make the transition back to normal as seamless as possible.

Wardrobe re-function

We all have to rethink what we’re going to be wearing – including professional clothing from the waist down - now that we’re off Zoom and back to work in real life. Busy moms know having kids to pick tomorrow’s outfit tonight makes getting ready for school easier in the morning. The same works for adults. Take time to find out what’s overdue for dry cleaning or laundering (no one’s been washing those work clothes), what fits and what will work.

Pro Tip: If you can pick a week’s worth of outfits for the first days back, you may find a new habit that makes your morning rush a lot less stressful.

Transitioning to traffic

Many Americans have noticed traffic is back up to nearly pre-pandemic levels. Your commute will be, too. Be ready to leave a little earlier if you drive to gauge what the new commute will be like. You may find it’s easier than before – with not everyone getting back to work – and have a bit of time to stop for a scone and a latte; or you may find the nightmare morning commute is back in full force.

If you use public transportation, be ready for the crunch. Is your comfort level prepared to be that close to others? Make sure to have masks and sanitizer with you at all times to ease your worries. Social distancing might be easier if you take a train or bus earlier or later than the usual rush hour. Will your employer allow you to flex your hours during the transition to accommodate? It’s worth asking.

If you don’t think you can handle the close quarters of the bus, is driving to work an option temporarily? Consider looking for a car pool in your area or seek out coworkers you can commute with. Whether you drive or use public transportation, consider asking your employer about flex start/stop times to ease the commute crunch as you move back to in-person work.

Set-up childcare

Of course you’ll need childcare arrangements in place before you even consider returning to the office. If possible, get the kids comfortable with a nanny, preschool or after-school program before you’re back on the job. With Helpr’s Upload Your Own Provider feature, you can upload someone they’re already comfortable with - like a grandparent, a friend, or a neighbor. A few days with you nearby and available will help you feel confident they’re in good hands, and give them the same level of well-being.

You may be ripe and ready to get back to having conversations in person and with adults all day. But be ready for a bit of separation anxiety on your part along with the usual parental guilt. As much as they’ve driven you crazy, you’re going to miss your kids and family as you return to the office. Acknowledge those feelings and take time to check with daycare, nanny and spouse just to say hello when you need to.

Your children have become accustomed to having you at arm’s length – the change will be difficult for them, too. Let them know you’re available to call and video chat if they need some mommy or daddy time during the first weeks, as they regain their independence.

Have a backup plan

Nothing’s worse than the babysitter calling in sick at the last minute. You’re scrambling to figure out what to do on a moment’s notice. Having a caregiver backup plan in place before you need it is critical. Whether you’re re-entering in-person work, never missed a day at the office, or a new parent just navigating childcare, Plan B for the kids will always be a priority. Use Helpr for all last-minute requests. Qualified caregivers will be at the ready whenever you need them. 

Remote school versus in-person work

For parents with children who were remote learning while they were remote working, the juggling act of 5th grade math and social media marketing has been a year-long challenge. If your kids will still be remote learning when you return to in-person work you may need help providing them help.

Talk to your child’s school to see if there are resources available: many schools have set up teacher office hours for kids to get answers; others have counselors available to help. Helpr’s Helpr Online service can be a great resource for virtual support. A neighbor or relative who has time to help should probably be on your kid’s speed dial, too. They’ll need to connect with you occasionally, but try to make mom or dad are the last people on the list to call at work to figure out when the War of 1812 was held. 

Ask how they’re keeping you safe

To ease your mind for the transition, ask your workplace how they’ll be keeping you safe. Most companies have initiated cleaning, distancing and mask protocols. Make sure everything possible is being done, so you can be comfortable getting back to the office. If you’ve been vaccinated, wait until your vaccine is at full strength, if possible, before returning. For the COVID-19 vaccine, it’s typically at its fullest level of protection two weeks after your last shot.

Acknowledge your feelings

Finally, acknowledge the transition will be challenging! You may be excited, anxious or fearful - and that’s okay. Your mind, body and family will be able to make the change back to routine if you prep them as much as possible for what’s coming, and recognize there will be hiccups along the way. Don’t pressure yourself to return back to normal overnight. It will take time for everyone to readjust – at work and at home - but you’ll get back on track with a bit of planning and a ‘we got this’ attitude.