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Back to Office: Redefining the New Normal

woman and man working in the office
For those young workers who began careers from the comfort of their homes, the return to the office can be a shock.

During the pandemic, we interviewed and were onboarded with jobs remotely. Many never met colleagues in person and never stepped foot in the office — until recently. For those young workers who began careers from the comfort of their homes, the return to the office can be a shock.

Their new normal is more about learning office culture than readjusting to it. And that includes:

Social Amnesia

Lockdown (after lockdown, after lockdown) and remote work have made us all just a bit more awkward. Once sharp skills struggle to pick up on social cues and read facial expressions. Small talk is painful. Not to mention we lost the luxury of the mute button to mask our less-than-polished moments. Social interactions at work can be exhausting for young workers entering and re-entering office life.

The new normal is socially awkward. At least at first.

Journey to Work

An undisputed benefit of working remotely is the ability to transition from wake to work in very little time. Having to attend the physical place of employment now adds a commute to the mix.

Young workers, especially those in big cities, must take an entirely new approach to their morning routines, factoring in traffic, walking time and the other delays organic to not living and working in the same location. It’s also an added expense to account for.

But, there are benefits of commuting too. Time in the car, bus or train allows us to relax and mentally prepare for the day or decompress from it. It’s a time to catch up on podcasts, read books or just sit in sweet silence. After many months with the start and end of work blurred, a commute creates a welcomed distinction.

The new normal needs to wake up earlier and is sometimes stuck in traffic.

Faux Pas to Fashion

Video conferencing made business attire largely a waist-up endeavour for remote workers. Blazers, blouses and button-ups paired nicely with jeans, joggers and pyjamas. We let it slide because it was out of camera view anyway. Young workers who were onboarded during the pandemic may not even own business casual clothing because it was an expense they could forgo.

Now, they need to build a work wardrobe and that takes time (especially at these prices). In support and likely some empathy, many companies have relaxed their dress codes. Power suits are more of an exception and expectation.

The new normal wear jeans and not just on Fridays.

9 to 5?

When outside closed and cohorts formed, colleagues found themselves juggling homeschooling, caretaking and a host of other responsibilities during daytime hours. Work adjusted.

If Suzie couldn’t sign on until 10 a.m., cool – see you at 10! If Jason had to be off by 3 p.m., no problem – thanks for starting early kid.

However, the rigidity of business hours is returning to the office as people do. It’s an adjustment that may take some getting used to for those young people who previously had the freedom to schedule appointments and tend to life during the work day because they would tend to work on a flexible schedule.

The new normal has core business hours.

Strangers in a Strange Land

Young people who entered the workforce during the pandemic have had two years to learn a corporate culture that is a shadow of its former self. And now it’s shifting. They are willing, able and eager to adjust as needed when needed.

With support from those of us invested in the success of a thriving young workforce, together with young workers themselves we can create a new normal that serves everyone’s needs.

The new normal is figuring out what the new normal is.

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