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What to do when your boss asks you to return to the office

By Ashleigh Ho

The pandemic has caused mayhem in almost every aspect of our daily lives – work being one of the most affected. This is why it’s really important to talk to your boss about your concerns, so that you can have an easier transition back into office life. 

We’ll cover some ways to tackle those returning to the office and give you some tips on how to negotiate a flexible work arrangement, such as a hybrid work schedule, that may suit your lifestyle best. 

How to talk to your boss about your return to office concerns

  1. Raise your concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  2. Outline your improved productivity when working from home.
  3. Bring up your outside of work commitments.
When you are asked to head back to work, set up a meeting with your manager to discuss any worries that you may impact your return. Create a list of the things that you want to discuss. 

Below are some examples you can address with your boss when asked to return to the office:

1. Raise your concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

It’s not like COVID-19 has disappeared forever – we all have concerns about our health and safety, especially with many of us commuting on public transport. Talk to your boss about what they plan to do should there be a case at the office and what they intend to do to reduce the risk of infection.

2. Outline your improved productivity when working from home.

working from home with dog

Some people over the lockdown found that they were more focused when they worked from home. If you were one of those people, and can prove that productivity, bring it up with your manager – they may be receptive to this. Talk to them about your recent achievements and compare your productivity between the office and home. 

3. Bring up your outside of work commitments.

Everyone has a life outside of work. Many of us are juggling family routines, study, or extracurricular activities. A working from home arrangement can help create more flexibility in your life and make sure you’re not always on the go. Talk to your manager about creating a hybrid work schedule to better manage these commitments. 

It can be scary talking to your boss about your concerns. But remember, your boss is human too. Many managers understand your concerns and can perhaps give you some guidance about your worries. If your boss is being difficult about the situation, reach out to colleagues, mentors, friends or family for support.

How to prepare yourself for a return to office

Here are some helpful hints to help you make the transition back to the office as smooth as possible:
Get back into your old routine: Set a proper sleep schedule, start that meal prep and check that the train timetable hasn’t changed. These are all practical ways to make sure you’re feeling ready to jump back in on your first day back.
  • Give your work area a makeover: Sometimes, a fresh start in the office can help you feel more hopeful about being back at the desk. Add some photos of your family (or pets!), organise your desk so that everything has a place, and even, add a little section for your favourite snacks.
  • Hang out with your colleagues before heading back: To help with that awkward ‘stand around the watercooler’ chat, reach out to your co-workers and see if they want to meet for a coffee before officially returning to work. 
  • Understand that change is inevitable: We’ve been hopping in and out of lockdown for two years now. Your work could be going through a restructure, your bestie colleague may have left, or your favourite coffee place could have closed down – it’s important to expect that changes can happen and learn to be okay with that.
  • Know your support networks: Returning to the office is a rough experience for some. It’s vital that you know who you can reach out to when you’re feeling overwhelmed or anxious about work.

What are some tips to reduce your return to office anxiety?

  1. ​Negotiate hybrid work arrangements.
  2. Start early, finish early (or vice versa).
  3. Look for a fresh start, like further study.
Anxiety about returning to the office is inevitable. It’s a bit like jumping into a blackhole since you’re basically creating your first day in the office over and over again. 

Here are some tips on how you can reduce that back-to-work anxiety:

1. Negotiate hybrid work arrangements.

Over the lockdown, many people realised that their work can be done remotely. Since the pandemic, many more companies are becoming accommodating to work from home requests. So, if you’re looking to negotiate a work from home schedule, now’s the time to sit down with your boss and ask for it.   

2. Start early, finish early (or vice versa).


Let’s be honest, the absolute worst part of working at the office is that commute. No one likes standing in that crowded train carriage with the windows fogging up because of everyone’s hot breath. Have a chat with your manager and see if you can start early and finish early or vice versa. Avoid the crowd and actually enjoy the morning train ride for once. 

3. Look for a fresh start, like further study.

If you’re struggling to negotiate flexible terms with your boss and are feeling anxious about the prospect of working in the office, perhaps it’s time to look for your next thing. It may be a good time to look into further study. 

At Upskilled, we offer a range of flexible online courses to suit job changers or those who want to gain more skills. Australia is also currently experiencing a bit of a job boom with many places advertising hybrid work arrangements as a benefit. Have a shop around and see what you can find. 

Looking for more flexibility in your career? 

If you’re worried about returning to the office, there’s a lot that you can do to alleviate your anxiety. Changing your mindset, getting prepared or negotiating flexible working arrangements are all ways that can make the transition back to the office much easier. 

Remember, if things aren’t working out at your current job, you can always scout out a fresh start - further study can help with that.

With plenty of online courses to choose from, studying with Upskilled can help you pursue a career with flexibility. Get in touch with our education consultants on 1300 009 924 and enquire today! 
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