Twelve Things to Do Before Going Back into the Office

So, you've had a long layoff from work. Maybe it was because of COVID-19, maybe it was for another reason. Regardless of why, here are 12 things to check/do before you go back to the office, lab or classroom:

1. Look in the mirror.

2. Try your work clothes on.

3. Check it all fits and works together.

4. Get into a routine.

5. Be prepared to say no.

6. Be prepared to ask to do more work from home.

7. Confirm your commute.

8. Remember what you learnt from COVID-19.

9. Pay attention to your pets.

10. Pack your bag.

11. Don't expect to be productive immediately.

12. Thank researchers, schoolteachers, and health care workers.


Hi there! We're all coming back to work after COVID-19 in various ways and forms. I thought I'd put together some tips on some of the things that I think you should do. For PhD students, you can ignore the next couple because I don't think you did this even before COVID-19.

The first tip for the rest of us is to take a look in the mirror and make sure that you're happy with how you look. Maybe you've got an iso beard or an iso haircut might be time to fix those kinds of things.

The second tip is to get dressed appropriately for work. A lot of people kind of went business on the top and casual down the bottom for their Zoom meetings and that very quickly cascaded into pajamas all day and all night. I think it's appropriate to go back to your closet pull out the things that you would wear to work and make sure they still fit. For some of us maybe you've put on a few iso kilos or but a bit rounder than you were before.

It's worth making sure that you wardrobe actually fits before you head into work. And then combine one and two. Get dressed. Look in the mirror make sure all looks appropriate and you're happy with how you're heading into work.

Okay, so the next tips for everyone because I think these are important and not just for early career researchers or PhD students. Part of going into isolation was about maintaining a routine. Again, I reckon lots of people decided that being in a routine wasn't for them, and they got up whenever, and went to bed whenever and did work whenever. For some academics, and some researchers that works really well but I reckon if that's not you or for the most of us I think routine really helps. Get yourself back into a routine. Start waking up at the right time to allow you to commute into work. Start trying to get some of the work that you should get done during work hours rather than on your laptop or you're watching a movie or Netflix in front of the TV.

I think a really big one is going to be for people to be prepared to say no. It could be saying no to working from home or saying no to go into work. In Victoria at the moment it's work from home if you can, and you should be doing that. Whereas other countries that might have changed but I think what will happen is that workers might now be encouraged to work from home more regularly. If that is good for you, if that suits your routine, and it suits your physical and mental health then by all means go for it. But if it doesn't suit your routine be prepared to say no or be prepared at the very least to negotiate a different scenario rather than an all-or-none scenario.

Conversely, some employers might say there is no way you're going to work from home. This was an exception we're never going to let it happen again. Don't be surprised if that happens. So be prepared to ask to work from home if that's something that will work for you. I would definitely know of workplaces who kind of grudgingly allow people to go and work from home. I can definitely see old habits creeping in and them not wanting people to work from home. There are good reasons for that occupational health and safety is probably one of them. A lot of people have probably got sore backs, and sore necks as a result of working on the couch or working at the kitchen table. Not having an ergonomic desk set up for them. I know that I really need a good setup in order to not have shoulder and back issues. So, there are good reasons why you might be told no we shouldn't work from home but nonetheless be prepared that you might actually have to ask for that.

I think even though we are being allowed back into society, and society is you know heading towards quote-unquote "normal activities". The new normal will require us to be very hygienic. So, don't forget what you've learned. Don't forget that we're still not doing things like shaking hands. We're still not doing things like going into work sick. Remember those things before you show up to work as a hero with a sore throat or a cough even if it's not going to be COVID-19.

Staying home when you're unwell is going to be better for everyone including yourself at the very least you'll prevent your co-workers from getting sick, and other people that you might interact with on your commute or at lunchtime. At the most you might recover more quickly if you actually don't work while you're unwell.

The next tip is to pay attention to your pets. We've been home now for more than 6 weeks. We've probably taken our dog on more walks than it ever had in its entire life up until that time, and all of a sudden if you start heading back into the office you might find that they wonder where all that attention is gone. So be mindful about your pets. Take them for the same non walks or at least taper it off. Give them other activities that might stimulate them including their you know, food bowl. Perhaps, can be a little bit more challenging to get the food out of. You can get all sorts of toys that you can put food in to make the eating process more challenging for your dog in particular but also, I've seen them for cats, and other animals as well. So be mindful of the attention that is going to disappear from your pets as you head into work more regularly.

I'd like to say thank you to all of the researchers, schoolteachers, healthcare workers, etc., who put in a massive effort during these lockdown times. To make working from home, schooling from home more appropriate to track cases of COVID-19, and to continue to work on cures and treatments for COVID-19. So, thank you.

If we're thinking about heading into work, a lot of people might have taken equipment home with them. I've heard people that took chairs. Obviously, people took computers. You might have taken stationery. You might have taken books. You might have taken other things with you. Do a quick scan. Make sure you haven't left anything at home that should now be going back into work, and particularly pay attention to whether you've taken that computer home and forgot to take it that in. I think it would be really funny if you showed up to work, and took your chair home and forgot to bring that back in. So, don't forget that. Otherwise, you could be at a kneeling or at a standing desk all day when you don't want to. And the final tip, the 12th tip is be easy on yourself.

Just like the change from working in your office to working from home probably whacked your productivity. Working back in the office is going to whack your productivity. There's going to be a bunch different distractions at work that are at home. They'll be more co-workers you will have to walk out probably, and get lunch or bring prepared lunch in. So be kind to yourself.

So, there you go 12 tips to making the transition back to work as easy as, and as successful it can be or the transition back into studying on-site. Good luck and let me know how you go.