Companies across the globe are asking employees to return to office. But the transition from home-based work to in-person modality doesn’t come without challenges.
“Transitions naturally spike our anxiety,” former clinical psychologist Alice Boyce writes in the Harvard Business Review. Whenever you’ve avoided something, you’ll feel anxious about returning to it, she reasons. It makes sense, then, that there’s a growing conversation on helping employees prepare for the shift back to office.
However, a significant chunk of this discourse has been generalized — with the intent to apply to all demographics. Universal advice is good; specific is better. Because the reality is: each demographic faces unique concerns, making tailored recommendations germane.
For young professionals, here are three practical tips to excel when returning to office.
1- Make Your Presence Known — Without Being Overbearing:
There’s a reason we keep hearing the phrase, “out of sight, out of mind.” There’s truth to it. Visibility — or its infamous corporate synonym, face time — is imperative. This is especially important for young professionals who are just at the beginning of their professional journey. Signaling your willingness to be an engaged member of the organization is key. Raise your hand for tasks, volunteer for working groups, take initiative to circulate meeting notes, think creatively and voice out your ideas.
But as you’re doing so, don’t neglect business etiquette. Make sure to demonstrate eagerness without being overbearing. Hyper-enthusiasm can be a natural outcome of finally getting the chance to come to office, but balancing it with a healthy dose of humility will go a long way.
2- Be Ready for the Unexpected:
In your mind, you may have imagined the office space with a trendy standing desk, an ergonomic chair stationed against vibrant views of the city skyline. In reality, you might just have to make do with a windowless cubicle washed with grey and white corporate hues. This contrast between perception and reality can be disorienting. And it’s applicable even more so if you are a young person coming into the office for the first time since you onboarded the job during the pandemic.
Manage expectations on what in-office work looks like. Of course, there will be many benefits of going to a physical office — increased collaboration, camaraderie with colleagues, better training opportunities. But know that it is also hard work squeezed between lengthy commute times. And as you venture into this experience, be open-minded, agile and adaptable. Understand that it will take time and practice to acclimate to your new surroundings. And while you do so, invest your energy strategically: identify what matters most to the success of the business you’re working for, and orient your productivity in that direction.
3- Create a Diverse Circle of Supporters:
Periods of transition are made easier through a strong network of supporters. This comes in many forms. First, there is the traditional mentorship model. As you step into the office environment, leverage the wisdom of existing mentors and be on the lookout for cultivating new mentoring relationships. If your organization offers a formal program to match junior and senior talent, sign up for it. But do not limit yourself to hierarchical mentoring; peer-mentoring is effective too. Ask questions, learn the do’s and don’ts about the office culture, team dynamics, workflow — and of course, the best place to get quality coffee.
As you nurture your relationship with colleagues, find sponsors that will vouch for you as your advocates. This is critical for an accelerated career pathway. But sponsorship takes shape organically; there is no overnight formula. The best practice is to gain credibility through a combination of consistently top performance and high emotional intelligence.
Lastly, diversify your circle of advisors. Finding an external career coach to gain intensive training on growth and development can be valuable. For fresh graduates, remain connected to the professors that directed you in college and the classmates that you enjoyed working with. Seek their input on important professional decisions. But make sure to find ways to reciprocate by adding value in all relationships. The strongest networks are always a two-way stream.