The pandemic was a boon for the old dog living in my house. For over a decade, our dog was fed before the family. Then, a few bits of something yummy would be put in her bowl during table-clearing. Sometimes while she waited, she would lie near the table, sometimes near her bowls, and occasionally on the couch. The pandemic came crashing in and all of those routines were upended. The children who had left home returned and were instantly re-besotted by their dog. Pieces of food were "accidentally" dropped from the table. Nibbles of dinner where "surreptitiously" balanced on knees. Tasty morsels were delicately hand-fed directly into the eagerly waiting mouth of our formerly well-behaved dog. Years of training dismissed in a matter of days. Even after the children returned to their lives, the dog would snoot, whine, and beg during our formerly peaceful dinners. It was clear our old dog had learned new tricks. As more people are vaccinated, the world will take on a new normal and we will need to learn new tricks ourselves as we successfully transition back to our workplaces.
Anticipate the change ~ Before you start packing your bag for work, take a moment to consider what is going to be different. From how you commute to work, to who is there, to your workspace, there are bound to be changes. Free space in your mind to readjust and acclimate as you encounter these inevitable changes.
Recognize the difference ~ Our routines are just that, familiar to us. Often it is not that something is better or worse. It is just different. Note when things are not the same as before. It could be the new way is better, faster, or more fun. Embrace the possibilities.
Allow for ambiguity ~ Most of us look for answers. We want to know what to do, where to go, and how to get there. In fact, many schools reinforce this idea that there is "one" right answer to almost every question. As adults, we learn there are often multiple right answers. And as adults, we need to feel comfortable when answers are not readily available. This transition to the new is a work in progress and there will be times when we must wait for a solution to solidify.
Use your voice ~ Acknowledge the new, strange, different, ambiguous workplace. Say so out loud to yourself and others. Admit this is not the way things used to be and talk through how things should be moving forward. Speaking with your colleagues and co-workers is a wonderful way to process your thoughts and feelings as we return to the office.
Allow yourself time ~ We know that time usually does heal many things. This past year has been quite the wild ride and we need time to find our new equilibrium. Understand that it does take time to relearn your new routines, rediscover your fastest commute, reacquaint yourself with your coworkers. Know that within a few weeks, feelings of familiarity will return.
Balance with familiar ~ Returning to the office may be fraught with uncertainty. Seek out comfort from things that have not yet changed. Look for things that have remained consistent; your favorite coffee shop, the plant someone watered during the year, a co-worker's laugh. Take comfort in those moments.
Employ preemptive etiquette ~ The new does not necessarily mean a surprise. Request information in advance. Find out from your manager what changes to expect. Review the building website to see what regulations have been put in place for spacing, elevators/stairs, and any areas where people are eating. The more information you obtain in advance, the more you can anticipate as you return to the office.
It only took two meals of completely ignoring her during dinner for our dog's good manners to return. She is still fed her dinner before ours. And now, if she is good, she might just find an amuse-bouche in her dish as our dinner is brought to the table.
Old dog owners can learn new tricks too.