Back to Work. Covid-19 Edition.

by Maia Monell | 3 September 2020

Who else feels like we’ve been on a Summer holiday since March? I’ve found myself time and time again reminiscing about my favorite Summer break. I was 21, a Junior at Wake Forest, and owning (in my own mind) a coveted internship at FutureBrand in London. The same agency who won the London Olympics account and currently held the then sex-centric Red Bull brand. Needless to say, it still feels like a dream. 

….A dream. Now I’m back. Sitting in my home office, parenting a new puppy, and wearing the same pair of sweats for the last 6 months.

What will going back to work look like now? Here are some thoughts to help your wallet & your wellness…

#1 Prioritize your health

Ok. I’ve been trying to get people on this bandwagon for years. But maybe now, in the wake of a global pandemic, people might actually take me more seriously? (Insert shrugging girl emoji). 

First, block off your workouts ON YOUR WORK CALENDAR. Do it. Do it for you. Do it for future-you. Do it for all those times you told yourself you’d workout after work and then went home to ‘Flix and chill. When sh*t is on our calendar, we’re more likely to prioritize it. Period. 

Second, spend 30 minutes before work off of a screen, in a non-stressful environment (ie, not your commute). I have some friends who started prioritizing daily dance sessions to break up the monotony of working from their tiny Brooklyn apartment. Whether you rock it out, take a walk or settle into some meditative mantras, you’ll be shocked (!) at how these 30 minutes help you refocus, realign and reflect on how you feel. 

Third, take an actual sick day when you’re sick. What does that mean you may ask? Well, as we return to work and everyone is HYPER alert to that sneeze in the elevator, recognize how easy it is to expose others to that ‘allergy thing’ you get once a year. You’re helping nobody by exposing them to the event of a mild nasal infection. Stay home, sit back, put the away message on and RECOVER. We get sick when we’re stressed and our immune system is down. Give your body a needed break and a solid opportunity to bounce back sooner. 

#2 Speak up for yourself

In the next 12-24 months, we will inevitably be confronted with some difficult situations. Some of our colleagues might be ‘lax’ on the whole ‘mask thing’ when we’re in social settings, while others might go full Breaking Bad (you know the look…). Needless to say, we’ll need to find ways around the breakroom convos that leave us feeling, well, awkward. 

First, never shy away from an opportunity to demand respect. Ever. If someone challenges your mask-wearing preferences, tell them that it makes you feel more comfortable and would hope they respect your decision and even consider masking up themselves to help everyone feel supported in this new environment. 

Second, ask questions. If your work setting hasn’t provided you with the appropriate level of protection to come back to work safely, let them know it in the calm, cool and collected manner that only your inner bada$$ knows how to do. Don’t ‘slyly’ mention it to a superior, instead shoot HR (or equivalent) an email asking what the return to work safety measures will entail before you yourself return to work. Honey, there’s nothing stronger than a paper trail. 

#3 Take Time with Your New Routine

Let’s face it, you’re not going back to the normal 9-5. Whether you’re off to live that hybrid-work-life or you’re not going back until Summer 2021, things will not be like they were pre-Covid (though, I can dream). Be patient with your new routine. Patience, like that $10 bottle of wine you now buy in bulk will be your bestie now, and frankly, always. 

First, find a routine that works for you now. If that means getting into work earlier to avoid the commuters on the bus/ train, do it. Tell your boss you’re doing it and why. Then, and this is important, LEAVE before rush hour. If you’re the first one in,  be the first one out. Remember, if you were lucky enough to have worked from home for the last six months, leaving at 3pm to hop back online from home at 3:30 or 4pm ain’t no thing. Office presence is a farce and a serious thing of the past. 

Second, and this kind of goes with the first, work smarter, not harder. This should come to no surprise, but your boss also was super stressed during what my college interns call “The Q.” Meaning, they were not actually hawk-eyeing Slack all day to see who was or who wasn’t online. Also meaning that absenteeism will be judged on your inability to execute deadlines, not your inability to park your tush at your desk from 7am-6pm (I work in startup tech, these are normal hours. See, it’s not so cool afterall….). 

So, how do you keep getting noticed if you’ve adjusted to new work hours and are seen much less (if at all) in person by your superiors? Easy, make their lives and yours easier by outlining your progress each week and marking completion dates on every task. If your office doesn’t have a task management platform, might I suggest Monday.com ? It’s bomb. It will help you identify weekly to do’s and monthly projects and keep track of your performance across each stage of the process. Your boss will love you, give you a raise, and you’ll never have to worry about ‘being seen’ ever again. Huzzah. #lifestyledesign. 

Ok, in summary, going back to work in a physical setting isn’t going to be a walk in the park. At all. And that’s ok. We humans are incredibly adaptable and superbly resilient. I think we’ve proved that during this pandemic. You’re allowed to be stressed, you’re allowed to be cautious, you’re allowed to stand up for yourself, your health and the health of those around you. Just don’t forget there are ways to optimize your return to the office.

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