Ten tips to help you return to the office confidently

shy, introverted woman being clapped in the office

Returning to the office after months or even years of working from home due to the pandemic can feel daunting.

Our anxiety may spike at the thought of commuting, team lunches and office small talk while a lack of face-to-face contact and endless video calls may have left us unsettled and in need of a confidence boost.    

To help ease workers into a new routine, psychologist and member of SmileDirectClub’s Confidence Council, Dr Linda Papadopoulos, has put together 10 tips to help reinvigorate employees who need to find their confident stride when setting foot back in the office.  

Remember that change naturally causes anxiety but that equally we only grow and develop when we feel a little anxious and come out of our comfort zone.

Changing our daily routines can be unsettling and once inside an office, we can feel that we’re no longer in a comfortable environment and this puts us on edge. Make this easier by ensuring that you give yourself time to re-adjust, just as you would as if you were starting a new job; try bringing in some items from your home environment whether its photos, plants, music you listen to on headphones if this helps your creativity/ concentration, and remember anxiety is usually quick to subside.   

Try to hold on to the best parts of working from home.

 The pandemic forced a huge experiment upon the nation to quickly adapt to new ways of working so it’s possible you learned a lot about what makes you more productive. If you were going for a walk at lunchtime while working from home, try to re-establish these beneficial habits as if they were new and remember you have control over implementing them into your new routine. Feel confident about discussing this with your manager, many companies are aware that going back to the office may feel challenging so discussing with them the things that will help you will actually help them support your transition back.  

Don’t try to do too much on day one.

Don’t feel pressured to establish all your new habits in one go. If you want to start as you mean to go on by spending your lunchtime in the gym, or going for a walk and finding a healthy lunch option, that’s great but realise it’s hard to create a new routine. These things can take time to build into our lives so think about one step each week, rather than trying to pack it all at once. Remember the best way to establish a new behaviour and reach a goal is to break it down into realistic and manageable steps.   

Feel confident to ask to work from home.

If you want to continue working from home for part of the week then you should ask for that. You should feel confident to set-up a meeting with your manager and talk through the reasons why it made you more productive or helped your time-management. Prepare for the conversation ahead of time because if you’re confident when you ask, you’re much more likely to get what you want.   

Ask for support.

Chances are you’re not the only one feeling anxious about returning to the office and this is where employers have a part to play in facilitating support. No one is fragile or has bad coping skills if they’re struggling with the new routine. Ask a manager about setting up a support group to talk about why it’s uncomfortable which will help immediately establish that change can be hard for everyone. It’s critical that you are clear about what works best for you in terms of your ability to be productive and creative and to be clear about the ways that you feel your employer can help you.      

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Recognise boundaries may have changed.

Video meetings have given us a view into our colleagues’ homes we would never have received pre-pandemic and this may have shifted our boundaries. But it’s important to remember that just as before, tolerance and acceptance in the workplace go a long way to providing a productive and enjoyable working environment, and that office gossip produces the opposite.  

Be ready and go in prepared.

If you’re feeling nervous about speaking up in meetings now they’re happening face to face, you should prepare so you have an idea of what you want to say and think about how you want to articulate your point. Once we express something with confidence, it is much easier for the other person to absorb and accept it. It may help to remind yourself of times in the past when you have been able to do this and see it as a matter of being out of practice to avoid self-limiting thoughts like ‘I can’t do this’.  

Remind yourself of why you’re good at your job.

While working from home, there’s no chance the CEO will walk past the door as we give a presentation but when we’re back in the office, we’re more exposed among senior staff. If this makes you worried, remember why you got the job in the first place. Read through your past appraisals and remind yourself why you were given your job on merit.  One of the great things about being back in an office environment are the opportunities for ad-hoc learning and mentoring. Speak to colleagues that inspire you, ask questions and make a point of connecting with your team, this will all help in terms of settling back in as well as professional growth.  

Use the new face to face routine to your advantage.

Video calls make it harder to read body language and it’s much easier to be distracted while speaking online. But in face-to-face meetings, we can become far more attuned to the other person’s stance and respond more appropriately. Use this chance not only to learn and grow professionally but also to show your manager what you are bringing to the team, this will ultimately hold you in good stead when it’s time to decide whether to ask for the pay-rise or promotion you have been waiting for.       

Recognise what’s in your control.

We have a perception sometimes that we can’t control our working day but our anxiety will naturally start to reduce if we recognise that while we can’t control everything, we can certainly control how we react to things that are happening. We can always take control of certain aspects of our experience. It’s up to us what we wear, how prompt we want to be, how we respond to our colleagues and how we broach complex situations with our managers. We know that people who exert their influence are able to moderate their negative feelings around change, and more importantly, feel more adequate about their ability to cope.   

Dr. Linda PapadopoulosAbout the author

Dr. Linda Papadopoulos is one of the most well-known and respected psychologists working in the UK today.

Her 17 year career as a research scientist and practicing psychologist has led to her work being published in some of the most well-regarded academic journals and given rise to a high profile media-career. Her observations regarding the psychology behind news and current events are syndicated by the press and discussed by television and radio networks both in Britain and in the USA.

She has a prolific academic publication record and has published widely in peer reviewed academic journals in the fields of Psychodermatology, Body Image, Counselling and Medical Psychology. Her books and research articles in the field of Psychodermatology exploring the link between the skin and the psyche are considered seminal in the field.

She has written several academic and self-help books many of which have been translated into numerous languages and her edited text in Psychodermatology, published by Cambridge University Press, has been commended by dermatologists and therapists alike. Dr. Linda still actively supervises research and is often invited to give specialist lectures at Universities and Medical Schools both in the UK and throughout the world.

Founder and director of the successful Programme in Counselling Psychology at the London Metropolitan University, Dr. Linda was appointed Reader in Psychology in 2001 – a great distinction at such a young age. In addition to her academic research she was recently asked by the British Government to conduct a review on the sexualisation of young people and its link to domestic violence which was published in 2010. The publication of the review received positive attention from politicians, stake-holders and the media.

Dr. Linda is a Chartered Counselling and Health Psychologist and an Associate Fellow of the BPS. She has worked in various treatment settings both privately, with her own practice and in the National Health Service. During her 14 years as a Chartered Psychologist, she has gained extensive experience in the counselling of individuals, couples and families. She was recently included in the Top 20 therapists in London by the Evening Standard newspaper and was awarded the Madame Figaro Women of the Year Award in 2008 in the field of academia.

As well as her clinical and academic work Dr. Linda is often enlisted to consult with large corporations who want to utilize her research and academic background to effectively conduct studies and analyze quantitative and qualitative data. Her analysis provides major brands such as Dior, Speedo, and Renault with valuable insight on topics such as consumer behaviour. The results of her research are often included in written material for general circulation and press releases. Similarly, Dr. Linda’s experience as a behavioral scientist has also been used to help brands understand consumer behaviour issues behind their ideas and to help develop and execute research plans for PR and marketing campaigns. Her research background combined with her role as a well-known social commentator and psychologist are integral to Dr. Linda’s ability to communicate complex scientific ideas and concepts in an interesting and engaging way.

Over the past decade Dr. Linda has become one of the most well recognized faces on British TV. She is a regular commentator on psychological issues in broadcast, radio and print media. She was part of the original Channel 4 team on the reality TV phenomenon “Big Brother” and went on to host the Channel 5 shows “Doctor Doctor” and “Double Cross”. She has fronted factual segments on ITV’s This Morning, BBC’s The One Show and has also provided professional psychological commentary for numerous British television and radio programs such as Channel 5’s The Wright Stuff, BBC Breakfast, and ITV’s LK Today. Her expert opinions are also regularly featured on news programmes including, CNN, Sky News, ITN news and BBC24. Dr. Linda has also appeared on American TV shows such as “The Early Show” on CBS, CNN and VH-1’s “Celebrity Fit Club”.

With a prolific and distinguished career that she loves and which keeps her very busy Dr. Linda values her free time with her husband and their young daughter. As a psychologist and as a mother Dr Linda is passionate that young women develop a healthy self-esteem and body image. Her philosophy is that feeling good about yourself, your passions and achievements inevitably leads to looking good and most importantly liking who you see in the mirror…

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