Returning to the (Old) New Normal: Your Back to Work Guide

After 18 months of a pandemic lockdown we are all left with so many questions, one of the main ones being: what will it be like going back to the office? As we transition out of lockdown and back into the office/workplace, there’s a whole lot to think about.

This pandemic has affected us all in different ways, and it’s only normal to feel uncertain about what the future holds. Most are feeling confused and apprehensive about the changes around them. Is it safe to go back? Will everyone be going back? Is there a thought-out plan? Can we go back gradually? Do we even need to go back?

Many small businesses are exploring new hybrid working arrangements, but everyone’s situation is unique. As you approach your shift into the new normal, here is a guide for both the team leaders and members over the coming months.

For the Founders and Leaders

Mental Health First

Anxiety is a place that looks for problems.

Of course, the pandemic has given us ample reasons to worry about our safety. But identifying moments when you or your employees appear to have anxiety symptoms, labelling it can help the person feel more in control of what happens next. Signs come in all different forms, including:

So, how do you avoid anxiety coming back to the office with your employees? Don’t try to go from 1 to 100 on your first day back at work, this goes for everyone. Keep things simple at first so that no one becomes overwhelmed. As humans, we can find change challenging, so you won’t be alone in dealing with anxiety about going back to work following lockdown.

No matter what information you have to present, what accommodations you can and can’t make, and what policies you may have to enforce, do it all with compassion. It’s often an antidote to anxiety.

Plan It. Practice It.

Guidelines are Good

Hygiene = Happy

Boost Freshness

Break Outside

Hybrid Is The Future

So what happens after lockdown and what could this period mean for returning to the workplace? Will many of us return to the 9–5 of office life? Or will remote working become the norm?

Hybrid working seems to suit many people and small businesses. Various surveys have suggested that many workers are keen on the idea of working from home (WFH) at least some of the time. But of course, not every company, role, or employee will be in the position to work from home or have a flexible schedule. However, for an increasing number of us, a mix of remote and office work could be the new normal.

Be Flexible

And, I don’t blame them. Do you?

Your employees had to adapt to the changes this pandemic brought on and still managed to adjust and continue doing their job, and well at that. This pandemic has proved that people don’t need to go into the office every day to be superior employees. Employees do not have to be together in an office five days a week to do their jobs well.

Remember that stress feeds on productivity, so bringing your employees back into the office too often or too soon may backfire and leave you looking for new hires.

This new normal might be a hard pill to swallow for some companies, and many still believe that work must be done in the workplace, but I would encourage executives to consider the above instead. You might be pleasantly surprised by the outcome of adapting to the new normal, rather than fighting against it.

Expect The Unexpected

Now, preparing varies based on your industry, but here are a few central areas for small businesses to focus on when trying to outsmart the big problems that may (hopefully not) meet us in the future.

I always say, hope for the best, plan for the worst. It’s gotten me pretty far in my life so far.

For the Team Members

Set Your Speed

Self-care looks different for everyone, so, unfortunately, we don’t have one golden answer. For some, it’s dancing, others it’s drawing, and sometimes it’s just as simple as saying no. Learn different ways that resonate with you the most for your self-care. Make sure you’re kind to yourself to help you feel happy and productive.

Also no matter what, don’t feel like you are rushed out of your comfort. I can’t stress enough that we have all been through so much change and loss so there is no room for any more unnecessary change or stress.

Many people find it helpful to know how their return to work is going to go. Think about your new commute, staying protected while you’re there, and what you’re planning for your lunch and breaks. Again, this can help take out some of the uncertainty of going back to work, allowing you to ease back into the new normal.

Ask For Support

Though please keep in mind, your employer may not have all the answers, especially if it’s around your mental health, which is best for professionals. As mentioned early, anxiety and stress can take over your life, especially if left alone. If you’re concerned about your mental health when emerging from lockdown, there are many options to help manage.

Never Forget

We learned a lot during this pandemic. We implemented a new normal that focuses on what is best for employees and their employers focusing on the positives. We helped battle the negatives with a hybrid solution, or by telling ourselves how fun in-office work can be.

Key Takeaways

And don’t forget, we are all in this together. We are always here if you have any issues or anxieties about transitioning back into the workplace. Never hesitate to reach out to us on our Help Center or Live Chat!

So let’s all stay positive and hopeful. We are always here. And until we will be back here every week, helping make things easier for your small business.

Originally published at on August 3, 2021.

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