5 Tips for Surviving a 2023 Return to Office

More workers are working in their employer's offices this week than any time since the near-global shutdown in 2020.  The number of fully remote workers dropped from 28% in April to 16% as of mid-September, according to experts, who also predict at least 54% of workers will be back in the office following the New Year's break – at least in major metropolitan cities.

As the return-to-office transition continues, many employers and a few workers are enthusiastic about returning to their old familiar groove. But for the rest, hanging up the flexibility of working from home ranges from daunting to outright anxiety-inducing.

If you are facing an upcoming transition from remote working back to full-time in-office employment and are less than enthusiastic about it, you’re not alone. The good news is that there are several things you can do for yourself to make the transition as smooth and painless as possible.

1. Plan a Return to Office Shopping Day

Returning to the office after a long time of telecommuting may feel like something you’ve never had to go through before, but you’ve most likely been through something quite similar a dozen times or more.

Every year, the summer break inevitably ends, and students all over go back to school.

Just like returning to the office, back-to-school time brings with it a lot of emotions. Likewise, it elicits a range of emotional responses from different individuals, many less than ecstatic.

However, one bright spot for many students during back-to-school is the novelty of back-to-school shopping — new brightly colored folders, pencils, and supplies for new and foreign subjects ahead.

Bringing that same energy to your return to the office could be one way to bring positivity and enthusiasm into a process that may be causing you stress. Instead of the illustrious 64-count box of fresh Crayolas, this shopping trip may yield a fun decoration for your office space, a beautiful notebook or planner, or even a new back-to-office outfit that makes you feel fresh and confident.

2. Add Something Special to Your Commute

One of the biggest appeals of working remotely full-time is the instantaneous commute to the home office. Going back to commuting every day may not be an inviting concept to most, but there are a few things you can try to make your morning and evening commute feel special.

If you will be driving yourself to work, why not start a new podcast or listen to an audiobook during your ride. Saving this for your daily commute creates a positive association and makes your ride a happier experience.

You have even more options if you carpool, take public transit, or walk to work. You can turn your daily return-to-work routine into something fun with a favorite TV show, mobile game, or book.

3. Bring Your Own Joy Into It

Business attire, hovering supervisors, fluorescent lighting, interactions with challenging personalities — the office work environment brings plenty of stimuli known to cause emotional friction.

However, when life gives you lemons, it is up to you what to do with them. You can focus on what you miss about working at home or seek refuge in the things that make you feel better.

There's an opportunity here to follow the lead of the now-decades-worth of workplace sitcoms, comic strips, and other media that taught viewers to find delight in the day-to-day tribulations of the office.

As you turn to face a return to a more traditional work week, you have the choice to find the fun in it. Keep things light with your coworkers. Take the chance to be silly when cynicism would be equally justified. Decorate your work area, make jokes, create an environment of camaraderie and fun, and inspire those around you to follow that example.

4. Create Intentional Transitions

Remember the importance of small-scale changes. How you manage day-to-day shifts from one headspace to the next can significantly impact the quality of your daily experience.

Each day as you complete your morning routine and travel into the office, you transition from your home life to your workday. You reverse this process each evening.

These minor transitions happen whether it's noticed or not. However, taking even a brief moment during these transitions to breathe and shift your mind into the next stage can be very healthy.

Simple transition rituals, as discussed above with commuting, are a great way to maintain work-life balance, protect your time off, and feel more at peace with your day.

5. Make Social Plans With Your Coworkers

One way you can significantly improve your day-to-day contentment leading up to and after returning to the office is by making periodic social plans with your coworkers. These plans could include a happy hour, seasonal activity, or an offsite lunch together. Outings like these benefit all parties in a few ways.

First, interacting with your coworkers face-to-face, outside the strict working setting, helps you build connections that make day-to-day work go more smoothly.

In addition, some of your coworkers are likely going through similar emotions to yours with the return-to-office transition. Having some peers to discuss this transition with gives everyone a chance to support each other as you navigate together.

Finally, scheduling just-for-fun social outings with the people you work with offers a great reminder of one of the distinct advantages of in-office work over remote work. The lack of genuine social interaction is consistently one of the biggest challenges of working from home and is a leading cause of remote work burnout.

It will be a big help to remember that, while there are always challenges, in-office work has some advantages too!

Getting Ready to Rock Your Return to Office

The return to office is a significant transition in the lives of many workers. Like many life transitions, it can stir various concerns and anxieties. However, this doesn’t mean that those worries have to define the experience.

Any concerns you have over the return to the office are entirely valid. Even so, there are always choices and actions within your control that can improve situations. With a few steps to take care of yourself and meet your needs, you can turn this transition from a daunting moment to an exciting back-to-work season.

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This article was produced by Smarter and Harder and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.


Sam is the founder of the personal finance and self-improvement blog Smarter and Harder. His mission is to start exciting new conversations that empower people to improve their work, lives, and money, and hopefully have a fantastic time doing it. In all things, he strives to lead with positivity, understanding, and more than a bit of enthusiasm.