How to Adjust Your Routine for Working in an Office Again

Marissa Dickson/Thrillist

If you thought the Sunday Scaries were rough, heading back to an office for the first time after working remotely for more than a year could feel downright terrifying. There’s re-learning your commute, waking up earlier, and having to put on real pants for face-to-face meetings to consider! Making a few easy adjustments can help set you up for success, though. From getting to bed earlier to staying connected to new habits you built during the pandemic, here’s how to rest a little easier about the change.

Reset your bedtime

You’re going to need to wake up earlier to squeeze a commute into your day, plain and simple. Trying to fall asleep two hours earlier the night before you first head into the office, though, is a recipe for a restless night spent staring at your cell phone, rather than catching ZZZs. To make such a shift happen, we recommend following the same procedure you would to preemptively combat jet lag. A week out from your first day back in office, move your bedtime up 15 minutes or so each night. By the time it is Office Re-Entry Eve, you should be asleep right at the time you need to be, rather than experiencing what experts dub the ‘On-Call Effect.”

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Do self care your way to ease jitters

“Self care” is all the rage right now, but that doesn’t mean you have to spend Sunday night meditating in lotus pose until you reach some zen nirvana. Self care should ultimately leave you feeling recharged, reset, and fully present, so think about what gets you out of your own head. Maybe it is taking a bath and donning a face mask, but it could be bingeing a new show, trying out a new recipe, going for a long hike, or just meeting your friends for brunch. Then, make those plans for the day before you head back to truly feel ready to take on the week.

Plan for your ideal morning

Hitting snooze until the last possible second, then racing around your place to get out the door sets the vibe for the whole day… and that vibe is pretty stressful. You’re more likely to feel refreshed by having 10 minutes to enjoy a cup of coffee, water your plants, or sit in the sunshine than attempting to sleep for such a short additional amount of time. If you’re not a morning person, set a pleasant alarm, and make sure you leave the curtains open in order to let in natural sunlight, which will make waking up easier. Should you be blessed with an automatic coffee maker, set it up, because knowing the coffee is already waiting for you is reason enough to get out of bed a little earlier.

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As some semblance of “normal” life starts to return, there’s another thing that might need readjusting: your wireless plan. These contracts can have lots of mystery fees on top of the advertised monthly cost. So, instead of sticking with one of the big carriers that lock you in for a year or more, switch to a low-cost option like Straight Talk to help keep more money in your bank account every month. Their plans start at $35/month and you can take advantage of the same networks as the bigger guys, for less — which gives you one less thing to worry about.

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Stay connected while you’re away

After 18 months of never needing someone else to sign for your packages, walk your dog, or meet the super for a repair, being gone for an entire day can feel anxiety inducing. Before you head back to a more “normal” routine, ease your mind by making a few investments in smart home devices you can check from anywhere. A pet camera for the pup is a good place to start, as is a WiFi-connected doorbell with a camera that will allow you to see when deliveries arrive, or if anyone else stops by. A smart lock, which allows you to lock and unlock your door from anywhere, is also helpful for letting in a dog walker or repairman, too.

Make the commute “me time”

About one-fifth of US adults moved during the pandemic, with many moving away from larger cities (with big office headquarters) and into nearby suburbs and smaller cities. So, that means more people may be commuting, and for longer, as the workforce returns to something more “normal.” Instead of dreading the long train or car ride, set this up to be your “me time” after being stuck with roommates or family members all the time for so long. Cue up a playlist to stream or podcasts to catch up on, make a list of books you want to read, and tackle it while you’re on your way into the office. If you’re taking mass transit, you could also utilize the morning to make appointments, or give your mom a call — as long as you're not in the quiet car.

Schedule after-work plans you’ll look forward to

Consider this the “spoonful of sugar” mentality: adding an activity you actually want to do to your calendar makes doing one you’re less excited about a little easier to swallow. So, if you’re only going into the office once or twice a week, make plans for after work that will get you excited about getting out of the house. That could be a dinner reservation at the restaurant you’ve been dying to try, getting together in the park with a friend you haven’t seen in ages, finally trying goat yoga, you get the picture. That way, you’re actually looking forward to heading into the office, rather than dreading it on Sunday night.