What To Do When Your Office Reopens, However Going Again To Work Nonetheless Feels Scary

Ask HR or your manager what provisions they have regarding COVID-19 and what options they’re providing for your mental health and productivity during these times.

Make it a conversation that’s open to negotiation. Fundamentally, you need to be solution-focused rather than complaining or drowning in the impossibility of the situation. At the heart of it all, we need to create a win-win-win solution. One that works for you, your boss, and the organization. 

For example, if you want to work from home more— whether during peak hours or for a few days a week— a negotiation strategy is to tell your boss how much more productive you are in that context. It could be due to less interruptions, a familiar environment, or the fact that you’re not having to worry about the virus; cite those. Your boss will want to know how and when they can contact you, especially if you work in a culture where there is traditionally less trust, more micromanaging, and a lot of oversight. So here’s where you assuage their fears by building in accountability. Book in protected times where you’ll check in with each other, get clear on the team meetings you’ll be present for in person or virtually, and propose that this arrangement is open to review. 

Or, you can propose a reframe in terms of projects and KPIs, rather than looking at the number of days or hours you’re actually working. This is what’s allowing some countries to consider the four-day workweek, for example. Such a reframe keeps us accountable and gives us more time to replenish ourselves; consequently, we can become more productive and have more creativity. We are also more present and purposeful in our work. 

Fundamentally, your task is to figure out what you can do to make life easier for everyone. It requires some planning, so take that seriously. Then reap the rewards.

This transition can be stressful, but remember you, your co-workers, and your community are all in this together. With collaboration, we can come up with creative solutions that keep us all safe and healthy.

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