5 tips for returning to the workplace

More than a million Danish employees are returning to the office. Coming back will be at least as difficult as it was to be sent home. However, there are a lot of things you can do to take better care of yourself and others at work.

Before you get into the nitty-gritty, make a mental note: The most important thing is to know that we don’t know anything.

Because while the lifting of restrictions allows us to glimpse an everyday life like the one we once knew, we've never been in the situation we're in now.

1. Accept loss of productivity. Returning takes time

The rise in productivity we saw when the country shut down in March 2020 is likely to be replaced by a decline now. Both managers and employees must accept this.

Therefore, verbalise your experience and make room in your calendar for you to meet up and be unproductive together. Also remind each other to lower ambitions a bit, so there's time for you to re-train your social muscle. It may have been a whole year since you last shared a daily routine, and there is a lot to catch up on, so it takes time.

2. Deal with conflicts when they arise

It will be both wonderful and difficult when restrictions are lifted. Some of your colleagues might like to be well spaced out, to disinfect the room before a meeting and not to have lunch together in the canteen.

This means we need to renegotiate the way we share the workplace. The situation can be conflictual and seemingly small problems can grow big because there are strong emotions associated with corona. That is why both managers and employees should address disagreements and small conflicts as soon as you notice them in the department.

3. Think before you act

We return to work with many subjective experiences and perspectives on how the past year has been. Some have had a lot of physical presence in the workplace, others have not. Some have had a really hard time during the shutdown, while others have thrived under the special circumstances.

That's why we need to have the courage to listen to each other in the first place, rather than try to solve problems straight away. It may seem tempting to lay down a lot of rules for distance work, meetings, hygiene, and teamwork. But the most important thing is to listen to each other and create a space where we can talk. There should be room for both your colleagues' and, not least, your own - perhaps - unexpected reactions.

Also remember that some people will still be afraid of infection, for example pregnant and breastfeeding co-workers. We need to take them into account. We have a shared responsibility to keep everyone safe.

4. Revisit your flexible working life

Many of us have missed structure and others have converted three daily commuting hours into effective working time. But when the workplace calls again, make sure you get the best of both worlds, not the other way around.

Work from home to the extent that it makes sense, and if you go into work, remember to take time off when you get home and drop the habits you picked up during the shutdown of letting work flow into your free time. When you have time off, you need to recover, let your brain rest and recharge your social accounts.

Between you and your colleagues, it is no longer a question of presence but of presence in time. So: Which and how many hours in a week can you meet and be together about something, when one of you has gotten used to going for a run at 10 and the other leaves at 14?

5. Take care (also) of your manager

Your manager is probably also marked by a tough corona year. Managers may be responsible for the general overview, direction and problem-solving, but during the corona, the management role has changed and there has been an uncommon amount of work for most leaders.

So show consideration and the same amount of care for your manager as you do for your colleagues. Ask once too often rather than once too little if you are unsure why and what to do.

Remember that your manager (like your colleague) has not experienced what you have. Be open, listen and share without judging how you feel.