Easing into a new normal at work

Heading back to office may seem foreign after months of WFH. Here’s how you can ease into your ‘new normal’ office life.

When the circuit breaker was implemented in April, the majority of the workforce had to quickly adapt to working remotely. With the easing of safe distancing rules and more activities being allowed to resume, more will be heading back to the office starting 28 September and this would require another round of adjustments.

Working conditions will never be the same as long as there are still COVID-19 cases and with no cure in sight. Here’s what you can expect when you head back to work and tips on how you can adjust to the ‘new normal’. 

Set the tone for the day with an effective morning routine

With the time saved on the commute when you work from home, you either could afford to squeeze in extra shuteye or had more time for yourself. Heading back to the office means you may have to make tweaks to your morning routine (again). 

Try this: As you work your way back to your pre-WFH days, introduce one change at a time to ease yourself into it. If you’ve been sleeping in, you can start by waking up earlier to recondition your body clock. Or you can get your work clothes ready the night before to avoid the last-minute scramble the following morning.

You can also try maintaining the same task structure you had while working from home—for example, dedicating the first hour to catch up on industry news and emails, then moving on to bigger work tasks as the day progresses. Remember, any morning routine is effective as long as it helps you to kickstart your workday.

Expect a new work commute experience

The Ministry of Manpower is encouraging companies to have staggered work and break hours for employees to avoid peak-hour travel. On the bright side, travelling during off-peak hours means you won’t be fighting for space in trains or buses. 

Try this: On the first week of heading back to work, try leaving much earlier or at different times to get a gauge of the state of the crowd and find which works best for you. 

Remember your masks and hand sanitisers

Wearing masks while outside should be second nature by now but you also need to be prepared to wear it the whole day in office. Since you’ll be in contact with public surfaces, you need to step up washing your hands and observing good personal hygiene. You will also be screened for temperature and expected to sign in via SafeEntry at various buildings and establishments so if you haven’t already, download the app for easier and faster access!

Try this: Even if you’re using reusable masks, always bring an extra along with you. You wouldn’t want to be fined for not wearing one in public if you misplace yours. Having a hand sanitiser with you can also come in handy when you need a quick clean and there are no restrooms in sight.

Be mindful of your office interactions

Under the government’s safe management measures, workplaces are required to minimise socialising and observe physical distancing. Team meetings will definitely be different now that everyone has to observe the 1-metre physical distancing rule. Congregations are also discouraged so there won’t be any spontaneous casual chats at the pantry anytime soon.

Try this: No handshakes allowed? A smile, a nod or a wave are good greeting alternatives. If a meeting can be done virtually, do that instead. You may even continue using the apps that you have been using while working from home to stay connected with your colleagues as you all observe physical distancing. Trying to avoid the peak lunch hour? Bring your own lunch to avoid having to go out or start using cashless payments to minimise physical contact. 

Lastly, give yourself time to adjust

The change in your routine and the office environment may seem hard at first but don’t be too hard on yourself. This is an unprecedented time and everyone is finding their own way to adjust. If you need to, take short breaks throughout the day to ‘reset’ your mind—it can even be as simple as walking to the pantry to grab a cup of coffee or taking a few minutes to practice meditation at your desk.

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