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Earlier this year, we published a piece about how to be a successful remote worker, when nearly everyone was working from home. Now, as you, your colleagues, and clients head back to the office, either in a full-time or hybrid environment, what will work look like for you as a permanent remote worker?

One word: different. According to a USA Today article, nearly 40% of employees would prefer to stay working from home. So it goes without saying that an adjustment back to the office will have a very different look and feel—for everyone. As a remote worker, one can expect some hiccups interacting with clients that would rather be working elsewhere. And, you may even feel envious at the thought of a separate workspace, a commute to decompress, and office banter.

There are certainly pros and cons to each situation and there will need to be flexibility and grace as the world readjusts. Here are some things to keep in mind as everyone shifts to a new work environment and schedule.

Adapting to Peers and Clients Working in a Hybrid Model

There are a few considerations (and emotions) to consider when your colleagues and clients start to head back into an office. While you may be accustomed to working from home, it’s normal to feel a pang of jealousy when clients mention in-person meetings, group lunches, and hallway gossip. And if you mention walking your dog during a call or not having to pack a lunch, consider the other side’s perspective. It’s the classic case of wanting what you can’t have, right?

Aside from the emotions around it, collaboration will look differently too. You may be the lone attendee on Zoom while the rest of the group huddles in a room and whiteboards. It’s easy to be left out when your presence can’t be felt, so be sure to have your video and sound on, so you can actively participate.

On the flip side, your clients may be all Zoomed out, so take into consideration when it might be appropriate to shut off the camera and host a voice only call. A break from video is always welcome and you can follow your client’s lead. Do they start the call with video off? Chances are that they’re spent. Or, simply ask their preference for that call—everyone appreciates the consideration.

Staying in the Loop

As a remote worker, you may feel like you’re out of the loop or missing out on key happenings with your clients.

Consider ways to get involved:

  • If you’re near an office or client site, ask to meet for lunch or attend a meeting, even once a month. In-person interaction—even if just to grab a coffee or take a meeting—is a great way to fill your need for office-related connections.
  • Consider arranging a virtual touch base to maintain facetime and accommodate clients and other colleagues that aren’t returning to an office (at least not full-time). Try to add a different element, like walking and talking on your phone, instead of your typical Zoom meeting or conference call.
  • Have a big pitch or an important time of year that warrants travel and coming together? Preserve culture and boost productivity by doing it in-person, even if it means having to travel. The expense and time investment will be worth the dividends paid by getting together and building trust and relationships.

You may also want to consider casual check-ins with your main point of contact too. This way, anything discussed in-person in the office without your participation can be relayed in a regular cadence. If you have suggestions to share about staying in touch, do it, but be sure to follow this person’s cue with how they are maintaining collaboration and productivity in the office.

A Changing Office Environment

While your work environment may not be changing, consider the ways your peers’ or clients’ environment may be. Those who now must commute back to an office building may be less likely to answer your call after 5 p.m. or respond to emails in the morning. Think about their own emotions and concerns as they head back, as well as any boundaries or restrictions that may now be in place.

And, as the Delta variant rears its ugly head, consider the potential anxiety and fear that clients may be under. Wearing a mask, distancing themselves, and sanitizing their office space could be commonplace again, leading to more stress. Couple that with kids returning to school or college, increased potential exposure of family members, and a disjointed work space (both work from home and work from work!), and anxiety could be sky-high.

Similarly, be aware of boundaries when asking to visit a client site. You may not be able to visit (or the policy may be fluid based on state and local guidelines), may need to mask up, and/or you may need to abide by certain restrictions and processes, like wellness screens upon entry.

Remember the Perks of Working Remotely

While there are definite benefits to being in an office and around other team members, it’s also important to remember the perks of working remotely in a full-time capacity.

Some of my favorites reasons are:

  • I can run errands or take appointments during less busy times of the day, saving me time in the long-run
  • I have flexibility in my outfit choices
  • I can switch over a load of laundry or snuggle with my pet for a moment
  • I have the freedom to make my own schedule, grab lunch with a pal, or start my day a little later, if my schedule permits

With the flexibility in a schedule, that also means remote workers have to work extra hard to maintain routine and boundaries. In a previous blog, I shared my best tips from my own adjustment from an office to being a remote worker. You can view all of them here.

Adapting to the Future of Work

Many industry pundits are working to predict exactly what the future of work will look like—where it will be, how it will get done, who it will impact, and how companies and employees can adapt to these changes. If there is one thing that is constant, it’s change. And if we learned anything in 2020, it’s that anything can (and will) happen and that we have the ability (and now the tools) to pivot successfully during times of chaos and uncertainty.

Now that so many of us have worked remotely for nearly a year, and as we start to head back to an office or hybrid environment, I’d love to hear about your own experiences. I’m always on the hunt for stories and tips! Share them on Twitter @RemotePRJobs – I’d love to hear them.