FREELANCING / MAY. 07, 2014
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How to Successfully Return to the Workplace After Months Spent Working at Home

Working at home is a dream come true for a lot of people. For others, the isolation and lack of structure are deadly to productivity. Whether you’re returning to the office to maintain your sanity or because your employer demands it, there are a few things you’ll need to do to ensure a smooth transition.

Break bad habits

So maybe you make it to your computer by 8 a.m., but you’re still in your pajamas with hair and teeth unbrushed. “Lunch” consists of a shower and finding clean sweats. Or maybe you’ve gotten used to working with your soaps on in the background and a carton of ice cream on your desk. Even if you’re not guilty of these particular bad habits, you’d be wise to take an inventory of your work style and think about what you’ll need to change to fit back into an office environment.

Take a look at your schedule

Even if you’ve kept normal office hours while working at home, you haven’t had to rush around getting ready in the morning, and you haven’t had to worry about a commute. Think about what it will take to work these activities back into your morning routine. What time do you need to get up? Are there some tasks you need to do the night before?

Plan for another way to take care of chores, errands, and sick kids

When you’re working at home, it’s easy to run to the store and grab a gallon of milk. Hanging out at home waiting for the cable guy to show up becomes a non-issue. That's because face time isn’t that important when you’re working at home. As long as you’re getting your work done, it’s unlikely that anyone will even notice if you take a few minutes for personal business. How are you going to handle all of these chores once you’re back in the office and people expect to see your smiling face from 9 to 5 each day? Moreover, when you’re working at home, having a sick school-age child at home isn’t really that disruptive. Sure, you might not be quite as productive as usual, but for the most part, you can set older kids up with a good movie and go about your business. But what are you going to do when you’ve got meetings lined up all day and your child has a sore throat and a fever? What’s your backup plan?

Get used to being managed

One of the nice things about working at home is that, for the most part, you don’t have managerial involvement until you’re ready. Even if your boss is super laid-back, you’re still likely to feel like someone is watching you all the time. When you’re working at home, it’s easy to forget you have a boss. But you do, and that boss has every right to check on your work. This is one of the hardest things for a lot of people to get used to. Train yourself to expect it by reminding yourself that you’re not self-employed. Being prepared for feelings of resentment will help you manage that emotion when it shows up.

Touch base with your colleagues

Reach out to your colleagues before your first day back. Whether you use email, Twitter, Skype, or just pick up the phone, make that first contact ahead of time. Get all of the questions and gossip out of the way so you can be ready to jump in and get to work once you’re back in the office.

Inspect your wardrobe

If you’ve become used to working in your pyjamas or comfy sweats, you may not have given much thought to what you’re going to wear. Well before your first day back in the office, try on your work wardrobe. Do your clothes still fit? If so, are they in good shape, or do they need to be dry cleaned or mended? If they don’t fit, can they be altered, or do you need to go shopping? What about your shoes? Do they need to be polished or replaced? There are few things that can throw your morning routine off more than realizing that your clothes are a size too small and your shoes are scuffed.

Make sure your personal appearance is ready for public consumption

This is a corollary of making sure your wardrobe is in top shape. When you’re working in the office, it’s not only about what you can do. Fair or not, your appearance is important. Do you need a haircut? Do you need to restock your makeup? How about your fitness level? Do you need to shed a few pounds or hit the gym more often?

Whether you’re looking forward to rejoining your colleagues in the office or are doing so reluctantly, you’re likely to need to make some changes to your work habits to avoid looking like an inexperienced summer intern. Getting your brain back in the office before your body is there will go a long way toward helping you fit back in.

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