Tips For Getting Back Into The Grind If You Hate The Grind (and Miss WFH)

Ease back into the 9-to-5 with these tips to bring your favourite things about WFH into your workplace.

Now that we’re in the midst of Phase 3, a tentative sense of normalcy is slowly returning. For some of us who have gotten used to the comforts of working from home (WFH) and are expected to return to the office, change isn’t all that welcome. We’ve all been there: rolling out of bed 15 minutes before your first online meeting for the day; self-declared midday breaks to try (and fail) to make another Dalgona coffee; shutting off your laptop at 7.00pm and heading for your yoga mat. Although working remotely might still continue in the coming months, for those of us reluctant to head back to the office, here are some tips to make the transition a little smoother.

“I miss having home-cooked meals.”

The Circuit Breaker (CB) turned many of us into home cooks and bakers, getting creative with whatever the ransacked supermarkets had left. While the resumption of pressing work schedules and less free-and-easy lunch hours mean that we might not be able to become the next Masterchef while at work, there are some simple ways to continue to hone your culinary skills and enjoy a home-cooked meal in the office.

  1. Since dining out might still prove tricky given seating restrictions, in-office lunches are a welcome alternative. Organise a potluck lunch with your colleagues so you can all try out (and show off) the different recipes you’ve learnt over CB!

  2. Do meal prep for the week. Buying and cooking in bulk means you don’t have to worry about what you’re going to eat each day, and food can easily be stored in the freezer and heated up in the pantry’s microwave whenever you’re ready to dig in. 

  3. Bring your favourite baked goods and snacks to the office—whether it’s the sourdough loaf you lovingly nurtured or sea salt chocolate chip cookies, these little treats can go a long way on tiring workdays.

“I miss the comfort of my home.”

Working from the bed or sofa was just one of the many perks of a home office, although probably not the most ergonomic. Another perk: staying in pyjamas all day. What we actually miss, though, is being in a place that you can be comfortable in—and usually, the office isn’t the first place that comes to mind when you think of that comfort. However, you can make it feel a little more like home.

  1. While you can’t wear a t-shirt and boxers to work anymore, you can sneak some comfort into your work outfits. A well-made pajama top works as a jacket, while a printed kimono also makes for head-turning outerwear.

  1. You might not have worn your brogues or stilettos for months now, so fluffy bedroom slippers (that can stay hidden under your desk) are also a welcome relief for aching feet. 

  2. Small changes in your space, like an aromatherapy diffuser with a soothing scent, or a potted plant/terrarium to bring a bit of green to your desk, can also make your desk more welcoming.

  1. Something that pet owners can relate to: a cuddle break with your dog or cat could work wonders on a hectic day. Not all offices are pet-friendly, but you can install a monitor cam to peek in on your dog/cat’s antics while you’re not at home. And although they’re not quite the same, keeping a fish in a small tank has been proven to improve mental health and reduce anxiety.

“I miss being able to adhere to a fitness schedule.”

Flexible working schedules meant that we were able to schedule in a workout more easily—no excuses when you could wear activewear all day! With the return to the office and more unpredictable hours—as anyone who’s had to cancel a studio booking because of a last-minute crisis would know—it might be more challenging to keep up with your fitness goals. Here are some ways to stick to the plan: 

  1. It’s about making time, although this is often easier said than done. A trick is to figure out which time of the day is truly yours, and yours alone—for some, it’s that special hour between 8.00am–9.00am before all the emails start rolling in; for others, your lunch break might be the only time that you really get to shut off. A bit of discipline is required to rearrange your workout schedule, and stick to it—get up half an hour earlier to squeeze in morning yoga, or take a break to head to the gym before coming back to the office if you’ve got to work OT.

  1. Instead of working out from home, you can work out in the office—with virtual classes readily available online, you can organise after-work workout sessions with your colleagues. Get creative with items from your workspace: water bottles can double up as dumbbells, and pantry chairs come in handy for tricep dips. 

“I miss the freedom of WFH life.”

There was a sense that we could be in more control of our own time when we didn’t have to force ourselves out of bed for the morning commute, or have someone watching over our shoulder while we worked. It can be easy to feel that you don’t have as much time, space, or freedom once the regular grind starts again, but there are some ways to make the most of your hours.

  1. While the morning/evening commute can’t be avoided, leaving for the office earlier means less traffic, and might give you time to get a bit of exercise in before your work hours. Commuting also adds steps to your day that you might not ordinarily take while working from home, which can contribute to your fitness goals.

  1. Give yourself something to look forward to during your commute. Queue the next episode of your favourite K-drama, or use it to tackle something you’ve been putting off: pick up a book, knit, write poetry, plan your next staycation, or shop for your Chinese New Year outfit online.

  2. Take short breaks as rewards for completing tasks, proportionate to the task that’s completed: like a coffee run after an intense meeting, or a personal day off after you’ve submitted a proposal you’ve worked on for weeks. What’s important is that you get the work done, and getting work done well means taking care of yourself too.

While working from home has its appeal, what’s undeniable is that returning to the office means being able to do your job with colleagues, friends, and partners who make work, well, a little less like work. We could all use alone time now and then, whether it’s in the midst of a pandemic or after the end of an exhausting work day, but nothing beats the feeling of knowing that you’re striving together with people who have the same goal in mind. 

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