6 Helpful Tips For Heading Back To Work (With Actual Human Beings!)

There's much more to it than having to put on pants for the first time in a whole year.

woman working at home in curlers simona pilolla 2 / Shutterstock

With the world headed towards herd immunity, slowly but surely, many people are returning to work in-person.

The world, as we know it, is forever changed. This return to in-person work or school may never be exactly what it was before.

Many are embracing it with open arms while others are more resistant for reasons of safety or just pure convenience.

"What do you mean I have put real pants on?"

"Are we really sharing restrooms again?"


These questions and others may be creeping into your back-to-work prepping brain. There's a lot to do in order to mentally and physically prepare for the transition. 

RELATED: 3 Ways Clear Communication Diffuses Post-Pandemic Social Anxiety

Here are 6 tips on how to survive going back to work in person.

1. Ease into the work.

Yes, it will be exhausting, at first.

When I first went back to work at the school I work for, I couldn’t believe how achy and tired I was that night. No, I didn’t have the coronavirus, I was simply using muscles I hadn’t used for nearly a year!

Walking, standing, and even talking was happening more often than it had been while I was working at home. There were muscles I didn’t even know I had that were being woken up with this return to work!


So, if you can, don’t plan to tackle too much your first few days at work. Allow yourself to ease in. Provide plenty of self-care for yourself at the end of the day.

You may need an early night in bed, some extra Netflix, hot tea, or a massage from a loved one. You may also find yourself more emotional than you thought you would be.

Take care and try not to use alcohol to relax on work nights.

2. Wake up your social skills.

Remember references to the chit-chat and gossip at the water cooler? Did those chats ever even exist? We haven’t been meeting people casually in common spaces for a long time.

In many workplaces, common spaces may even still be shut down. And when you're back, what on earth will you even talk about?


Zoom meetings have occurred over the past year with mostly organized conversations. You're not used to those unplanned encounters with colleagues we may or may not know very well.

Chances that things can get awkward, especially without the benefit of seeing facial expressions behind masks.

Be yourself, share your interests, and be genuine! Don’t be afraid to be a conversation starter. Small talk can be about something you’re noticing in the environment, a funny thing that just happened, or a compliment.

One thing many have gotten used to is learning about each other's experiences during all the weirdness that we've had to deal with collectively. Have some fun, it’s been so long that we could have a chat!


3. Remember to be compassionate.

Everyone has different comfort levels with safety and social distancing. One thing you’ll notice returning back to work is that there will be varying degrees of caution and anxiety around coronavirus prevention.

Some people may still want to wear two masks and gloves and carry hand sanitizer on their person. Others may be fully vaccinated and ready to go mask-less.

No matter where you are on the spectrum of safety, have some compassion for everyone who is trying to simultaneously stay safe and sane in their own way.

If they are making you uncomfortable for your own safety, simply state your boundaries with assertiveness or speak to your supervisor.


RELATED: How To Release The Social Stress & Anxiety Of Getting Back To Normal, Post-Vaccine

4. Find comfort and confidence in your manner of dress.

Most of you have found your favorite "Zoom Shirt" that you could conveniently grab for the next meeting. Money on deodorant was saved. The rubber on our shoe soles remained intact. Sweatpants entered the scene for good — until now.

Yes, it may be a bummer to retire the PJs when you go back to work, but what's important is to find what you will truly be comfortable wearing around colleagues in-person.

Personally, I've never been one to stay in pajamas all day. I always feel like I’m in one of those bad dreams where I forgot to get dressed before leaving the house.


Find a happy medium between comfort and professionalism. Depending on your workplace requirements, you can achieve this in a variety of ways.

Don’t feel that you need to compete with others’ dress. Select a pair of stretchy slacks and flats instead of stilettos. Wear what makes you feel good and confident in a professional setting.

5. Find your return to work rituals.

You most likely had rituals that kept you together in days past when in-person work was the norm. It might look like coffee in your favorite to-go cup in the morning or a relaxing bath at the end of the week.

You may remember and return to these old rituals or create new ones. Is there something that reminds you of your favorite days at home that you can bring to work with you?


Your rituals may be simple or elaborate. You may even do a more spiritual ritual that acknowledges this transition yet again in your life.

You might ask for added strength with the waxing moon or a release of fears or stress with the waning moon.

6. Remember that it’s a transition for everyone.

No matter how much stress or fear you may be facing about returning to work in-person, remember that everyone is going through this reemergence into the world in some way, shape or form.

Pets, too, will also be adjusting to owners being at home less often.

Bring extra kindness, compassion, and the benefit of the doubt to your co-workers. And for whom should you give the most patience and understanding? Yourself.


RELATED: Why So Many Moms Dread Returning To Pre-Covid Times — And How We Can Support Them

Cyndera Quackenbush, MA, is an Intuitive Storyteller based in the Bay Area, who works with women and men in stages of transition and her expert advice on ritual and storytelling can be found at Story Through Stone. Visit her website to schedule a free 15-minute consultation.