Goodbye sweatpants, hello business casual — after years of remote work, some organizations are transitioning workers back to hybrid or even fully in-office schedules. While some welcome it and others are less than thrilled, it’s certain to be a time of transition for everyone.
Some basic preparations before the big day will smooth the way and set you up for success. Check out these 10 tips for rocking RTO and showing your best face at the office.
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1. Have a plan for dealing with office distractions.
For a lot of people, the best part of RTO is returning to the social atmosphere of in-person work — but that comes with potential productivity-killing distractions. Thus, when it’s time to put your head down on a project, you’ll want to have a focus plan. It could be headphones or earbuds, moving to a different working space, or setting up “focus hours” during which you ask others not to disturb you unless it’s an emergency.
2. Ask about flexible working options.
Even with RTO in full swing, many employers are more open to remote and flexible working than they once were. If fully remote work is no longer available, your employer might be open to you working one or more days a week at home. Or, you might be able to come in at different hours of the day that work better for your schedule. Most employers understand that RTO is challenging, so it’s always worth asking for what you need.
3. Meal prep your lunches (and maybe your breakfasts, too).
Don’t let going back to the office mean you also go back to fast food for lunch every day. Instead, make meal prep part of your strategy for rocking RTO! The idea is to cook something tasty and nourishing in a big batch that you can portion out and bring with you throughout the week. If you tend to skip breakfast, fix that by prepping some breakfast favorites like parfait bowls or overnight oats.
4. Start adjusting your wake-up and bedtime.
RTO often means getting up earlier to commute, and you’ll want to prepare your body for this sooner rather than later. Figure out what time you’ll need to get up (including time for your morning routine), and then adjust your bedtime accordingly for the amount of sleep you need. If you’re not practicing good sleep hygiene, now is a great time to start. Smart habits like avoiding screens for an hour before bed can be game-changers for your alertness and performance at work.
5. Plan out a new exercise schedule.
On a similar note, you might also have to adjust when and where you work out. Some people switch their workouts from morning to evening (or vice versa), and some even join a different gym if there’s one that’s more convenient to the office. (Canceling gym memberships is notoriously difficult, so make this another process that you start early.) If it’s practical for your commute, consider biking or even walking for a little everyday exercise.
6. Get your wardrobe looking sharp.
Before you head back, try on all of your office clothes to make sure they still fit and look good. If they don’t (and hey, even if they do!), it might be time to treat yourself to some new office threads. It’s also worth reviewing the office dress code again, in case something’s changed, as many companies have embraced increasingly casual dress codes for in-person work.
7. Attend events outside of work to bond with your coworkers.
Some of the workers now returning to the office have never worked in person with their colleagues before — and even if you have, social interaction in person can be pretty different from online. Either way, try to join in non-work social activities. It both improves your working relationships with colleagues and opens the door to new friendships. Happy hour is always a popular choice, but many employers also offer off-the-clock social events that don’t center on alcohol, such as escape rooms or sports leagues.
8. Get your work area clean and organized.
It’s also a great time to get a fresh start with organizing your desk, office, or other workspace. If your space is overflowing with devices and cords, get some cable management aids like ties or cable trays. Make sure you’re fully stocked with any supplies you need like pens or paper, and get your desk organized in a way that suits your workflow. This goes for your digital work area, too. Clean out your computer’s desktop, your inbox, and any of the other spaces where digital clutter tends to accumulate.
9. Take care of yourself.
“Self-care” may be something of a meme at this point, but its core principles have always been true: Centering your health and well-being pays dividends in all other areas of your life. Good habits like a steady bedtime and regular exercise are key to having your game face on when it’s time to hit the office, and eating a healthy diet will keep your brain and body firing on all cylinders throughout the workday.
10. Reach out if you need help.
Many employees report feeling overwhelmed when coming back to the office, so take advantage of available resources. Your company’s HR department is a great first stop, and many employers now offer an employee assistance plan (EAP) that includes services like counseling. Of course, if you’re struggling with general readjustment shock, you’re almost certainly not the only one — so try reaching out to people you’re close with at work because there’s a good chance they’re going through the same thing.
If there’s one piece of advice that will make your RTO smoother and more enjoyable, it’s to lean into the benefits of working in a social space again. The more you make yourself part of the office community, the better you’ll be able to handle the inevitable adjustments and sacrifices of RTO.