With droves of knowledge workers around the world returning to the office this month – in various models – there are likely lots of people excited for the steps toward a return to normal. There are also a lot of people who are anxious, stressed and scared. Change can be hard and returning to the office after more than a year of working from home is certainly a huge change for all of us. The good news is, we’re all going through this together. Everyone returning to the office is experiencing some level of change, and the extent to which we can support one another will invariably impact how it all goes.
As the NST team prepared for our own return to office, we brought in an executive coach for a professional development session on navigating change. The coach helped us to think through the feelings and emotions each of us is experiencing regarding our return to the office environment. The simple act of acknowledging our thoughts, feelings, concerns and excitement opened the opportunity to process them and address them head on. It’s activities like this, combined with an open internal dialog, that empowers NST team members to bring their whole selves to work each day.
In the spirit of this approach, and in an effort to encourage other PR professionals who may be silently stressing about their own return to the office, we asked our team to share their insights and motivational tips. What gets us out of bed in the morning? What keeps us going despite the ups and downs or steep hills ahead? How do we stay motivated and keep the creative juices flowing? NSTers speak out on all this, and more!
Several NSTers liken the “return to the office” to prepping for the first day back to school after a long summer, while others suggest treating yourself to a little something to get motivated and excited for what lies ahead.
“Going back to the office after being away for so long feels like the first day of school after the summer break. You are anxious, nervous and excited all at the same time. Similar to how we prepare our kids for their first day back, we should do the same for ourselves,” advises executive Vice President of Operations and Partner Mary Correia-Moreno. “Go shopping and buy something that will make you feel good on the first day. Prepare yourself the week prior by waking up early since you now have a commute and can’t hit the snooze button that often. Prepare your things the night before so you’re ready to go in the morning. Greet your co-workers with smiles and get ready for a great first day!”
“First, let me say, I love shoes; so I’m taking my return to the office motivational cue from the fabulous Ariana Grande who rightly pointed out ‘happiness is the same price as red bottoms,’” says NST Account Director Melissa Rue. “My favorite heels have been sitting lonely and unworn in my closet for a year and I can’t wait to dust them off and rock them at the office. There is something about a great pair of shoes that just makes you feel like a star. So, my advice … go buy yourself a new pair of shoes that make you feel like a million bucks and break ‘em in at the office!”
“Once a week, reward yourself. Going back to the office after sitting at home in sweats for over a year can be daunting. Pick up your favorite coffee on the way to work or head to the beach to watch the sunset after work to reset,” says NST Account Executive Anja Riedel. “Plus, it’ll give you something to look forward to, so you don’t feel trapped in a routine.”
“Give yourself something to look forward to! I like to schedule a special activity or an event or find something to look forward to at the end of the week,” says SDSU Student Intern Brittany Lam. “It keeps me motivated and working towards the reward the weekend holds.”
“My tip is to make a fun, upbeat playlist for the commute to work. I’m constantly listening to music and a good song will help boost my mood and leave me with a positive attitude when going into the office,” says NST Account Coordinator Elise Frankel. “This also applies to working in the office. If you’re allowed to wear headphones and listen to music while you work, having a set playlist of relaxing lo-fi study beats helps ease anxiety and improve concentration.”
Several NSTers shared advice about embracing the joy of reconnecting and the increased opportunities for collaboration.
“During remote work, many of us have gotten used to putting our heads down and focusing on tasks, but as we return to the office, I’m setting an intention to enjoy the small moments of togetherness – a quick shoutout in the hallway, sharing a cup of coffee, hearing about team members’ weekends, an unscheduled huddle to get a second opinion, raising a glass at Thirsty Thursday Happy Hour, etc.,” says NST Executive Vice President and Partner Price Adams. “It’s these informal and seemingly small moments of connection that are critical to strengthening the bond/culture/emotional well-being among our amazing team.”
“Love the energy from being back in the office and the opportunity for impromptu brainstorming. This can happen spontaneously, just chatting with others in the kitchen or hallways or at deskside, or in semi-organized fashion,” says NST Vice Chair Tom Gable. “By providing clients with new ideas on a regular basis from different resources and experiences, we show off the value of the agency in being a trusted strategic partner with their long-term interests at the heart of all we do. We are also fun! I’ve had clients say how much they enjoy our in-person meetings and the energy and intelligence of the teams.”
“Heading back to the office will require some adjustment … the same adjustments that were needed when beginning to work from home full-time,” points out NST Senior Account Executive Christine Whitman. “Embrace the adjustment period by prioritizing tasks and activities that were impossible to do remotely, like face-to-face meetings or lunch with colleagues – anything that will help you return to the swing of in-office life.”
The importance of exercise, fresh air and just getting out of the house was another common theme from NSTers.
“Get outside,” advises NST President and Partner Teresa Siles. “Taking a quick walk around the block can recharge your energy and creativity.”
“In order to prepare myself for the day, I love to get up with – or before – the sun and get a long workout in before the workday begins,” says NST Digital Media Manager Aaron Blomberg. “Sweating out the day before’s tasks and accomplishments helps me set my head straight for the tasks at hand for the day to come.”
“Getting to have a divide between home and work is what gets me excited about the return to office,” shares NST Account Executive Paige Shewmaker. “Getting back to my normal morning routine and having a reason to get out of the house every day is exciting and breaks up the portions of the day. Also, getting to see my coworkers more often and having that candor that is hard to have through a computer screen is something to look forward to!”
And lastly, it’s no surprise this group highly regards organization as a motivational tool and stress reducer.
“Never underestimate the power of the to-do list,” advises NST Senior Account Executive Becky Schmidt. “It helps to keep you organized and from feeling overwhelmed. It also feels really good to cross something off the list – and yes, I will often write something I already did just so I can cross it off.”
“Keep yourself organized! Getting back into the office can feel like a disruption in your routine, but if you stay focused on the week at hand, you’ll feel set up for success,” recommends NST Account Executive Natalie DeAngelo. “On Mondays, spend 20 minutes of your morning planning out your work week – including travel time back into the office, in-person meetings, Zoom meetings with clients and even down time for yourself. No matter if you use an online calendar, a written planner or keeping tabs on your phone, planning out your work week can help you feel organized and ready.”
“I like to use daily to-do lists and task trackers to ensure I’m staying motivated. Not only do they help me stay on-task, I also enjoy the process of writing out my to-do list and using fun colored pens and highlighters to denote things that are high priority or low priority,” shares NST Account Executive Brogan Bunnell. “I also use X’s and check marks on my calendar to note days I’ve worked out, that way at the end of the month I have a visual representation of how many times I worked out that month. I’m a very visual person, so writing things down and marking things off is a great way for me to make sure I’m getting things done.”
“Many of us have enjoyed not having a long commute to the office while working remotely during the pandemic. To make mornings before work less stressful, simplify your process of getting ready,” suggests NST Senior Account Executive Krista Smith “That doesn’t mean skipping your full makeup routine – unless you want to – but it’s about looking for efficiencies. Perhaps you can set out your clothes or pack lunch the night before to limit the number of tasks in the morning. Taking a critical look at what you need to do to be office-ready and on time will prevent the anxiety of rushing out the door. Prepping for the day ahead will make you more excited about the return to the office and all the wonderful things that come with it.”
Remember, we’re all in this together.
“Communicate with your colleagues. Whether it be about trying to adapt to the workplace environment, learn more about your role with the team, or any stress related to coming back to the office,” advises NST Public Affairs and Government Relations Specialist Dylan Lomanto. “Communicating frequently helps your team understand how you are feeling and ultimately leads to a more supportive and cohesive work environment.”
Have your own motivational tips for the return to the office? Share them with us on social and let us know how your return to the office went this month.