Jul 12

The struggle is real: Back to the office we go

Today is the first day the Sabo PR team is back in the office since the pandemic began, and I am equal parts excited and apprehensive.

Excited for all the reasons you would expect – great to see one another in person after 16 months, a return to a routine we took for granted, being in downtown Grand Rapids again in the heart of the action. Apprehensive for some reasons that might not be as intuitive – will I be rusty at interacting in-person? Will I have any patience for a commute? What happened to all my shoes?

Preparations for our return to the office began months ago, as I shared in this blog. We had initially targeted June 7 as our first day back at 100 Grandville, but my brother Stephen was on hospice care and living in our home, so we pushed things back so I could focus and spend time with him during his final weeks.

Before setting July 12 as our new return date, I checked again with our team to make sure they were comfortable with the plan. I connected with our municipal clients who have embedded team members to discuss their needs. And I consulted the calendar, giving everyone the opportunity to stay home during our shortened week after the Fourth of July.

On Friday, Brian took inventory of our initial needs, with COFFEE being at the top of the list. I shopped for office supplies, cleaning products and snacks on Friday and Saturday with the same giddy anticipation I always experienced preparing to go back to school.

Also on Friday, I again took the pulse of our team to see how they were feeling about the return – what they were looking forward to, what they will miss about working from home and what worries they might have.

The team spoke with one voice to the first question: being together again. As one of our team said: “The energy that comes from being surrounded by a team of creative, driven people, like the amazing people of Sabo PR, cannot be replicated via videoconferencing. I so miss connecting directly with team members because that’s where the best ideas come from. I cannot wait for informal brainstorms around the watercooler to being able to actually look team members in the eye during our Monday morning meetings.”

As to what they will miss about WFH, the answers varied. Several mentioned their 30-second commutes to their home offices. Another team member highlighted the personal conveniences of working from home, such as being able to cook lunch and enjoy the company of pets throughout the day. Two others mentioned missing the relaxed attire.

“Worries” might be overstated a bit – perhaps concerns would be better. One of our team was concerned over losing the flexibility that comes with WFH – but I don’t anticipate that will happen. We’re moving to a hybrid model that will allow each team member to choose a weekly schedule that fits them best depending on what’s happening at work and at home.

Another team member shared one of my concerns about the return of in-person meetings: Since we have all gotten so used to using Zoom for everything, I predict there are going to be a couple of months where a little extra time and thought go into deciding whether meetings should be held virtually or in person. It’s not too much of a concern, but I do think it’s going to add a bit of extra effort when scheduling.

Others mentioned getting enough sleep, getting back to a more structured schedule and getting used to people again. One of our team wisely noted: “I’m not really very concerned, but I do think the adjustment back to ‘normal’ will be a big one. The slow transition has been helpful, though. Socializing has been SO draining. In more general terms, I’m hopeful our world will not forget how much grace we’ve been giving each other since this all began. I also hope society will continue putting more of an emphasis on mental health.”

A to the men, as my colleague Brian is fond of saying. I’m aiming for a little extra grace and a lot of extra patience as we return to the office.

4 thoughts on “The struggle is real: Back to the office we go”

  1. Robin Keith says:

    Congratulations and here’s to another step into a more normal world!

    1. Mary Ann says:

      Thanks, Robin — it feels like the first day of school all over again, in the best possible way.

  2. Elizabeth says:

    Welcome back in person! Enjoy the transition as it is just as important as the end goal.

    1. Mary Ann says:

      So true, Elizabeth! We had a wonderful first day back in the office yesterday — although shoes! commuting!

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