Editor's note: Bob Goldman's column is a new addition to the Monday Style lineup. Enjoy!
Remember when you first got word that you would be working from home?
How would it be possible, you asked yourself, to leave your co-workers and their endless dramas, which took your mind off your endless dramas? How could you say goodbye to your Aeron chair, where you spent so many happy hours pretending to work? What would you have to talk about if you no longer had access to the zombies of the IT department or the wackadoodles in marketing?
Yes, you were losing all that made work, if not wonderful or fulfilling, then definitely predictable. Because you were being sent to your room. And told to stay there.
I don't know how long it took for you to realize that working from home was infinitely better than working from work — probably about five minutes. Many moons have passed, and now you're grooving with your new workstyle. Of course, this is exactly when management decides to dragoon you back.
Be assured that Katherine J. Igoe has your back. Igoe, a writer for The Muse, has come up with nine tips to make your return to the office a smooth transition.
I don't have the room or the patience to discuss all nine, but here are a handful that may serve as balm to benighted returnees.
No. 1: Ask questions and share concerns with your employer.
The idea of initiating a discussion with your manager goes against everything we know about maintaining job security. The less your boss sees you, the less likely they are to fire you.
For this reason, I advise limiting the conversation to questions that are truly fearsome, like: "Will Tom still be allowed to keep his tuna sandwiches in the office fridge until they turn green?" or: "Is an acceptable alternative to wearing a mask putting your head in a bucket?"
You won't like the answers you get, but it does make sense to air your concerns before you make a serious commitment, like buying a bus pass for the morning commute or dusting the cobwebs off your Ferragamos.
No. 2: Integrate at your own pace.
It may be possible to negotiate an incremental return.
Propose coming in one day a week at first and then, when you're feeling comfortable, in a year or two, increasing your presence to two days, or, if you still don't feel comfortable, going back to not coming in at all, ever again.
Your managers may get mad at you, but not as mad as if they had to see you every day.
No. 3: Speak to co-workers you can trust ahead of time.
Soften the blow of returning to the office by spending time with "people you are comfortable with." Of course, if there's no one you feel comfortable with — understandable considering the vipers with whom you work — bring a trusted friend with you for the first month or so. A particularly empathetic bartender makes a perfect candidate and, when conversation flags, they can always whip up a flagon of Corpse Reviver No. 2 to make the mornings pass smoothly.
No. 4: Revisit (and revise) rituals.
Before returning, practice your morning routine. Curse out your alarm clock and try on your professional attire. Styles have changed since you've had to dress for success, and your body mass index may have changed as well.
Men could consider shaving again, though a two-month growth of stubble is always in fashion. Women may be pleased to know that, according to the most popular TikTok influencers, the Goth look has returned. Showing up for the first staff meeting in a black velvet bustier with torn fishnet stockings and sky-high stilettos says, "I'm ready to work," especially if you work in Human Resources.
No. 5: Make changes to boost your professional happiness.
Now is the time to make yourself heard. Igoe suggests you might request "more one-on-one time with your boss," or ask to "move your desk to be farther away from the noisy break area."
This will not make you happy. Being close to the break area gives you early access to the confidential office gossip, which you can be the first to gleefully spread. More "one-on-one time" with your boss is truly putting your head in the lion's mouth, only a lion probably has better breath.
On the positive side, you could benefit from asking to move your desk to a more conducive location. I hear Bora Bora is lovely this time of year.
Bob Goldman was an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at