How to seamlessly transition from working at home back to the office, according to local experts

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Illustration by Ella Babcock

With the city’s post-coronavirus pandemic reopening plan in progress, many are starting to break out of their at-home work routines and get ready to return to the office.

Transitioning from remote work life back to an office can be tough (take it from someone who’s done it). When you’re so used to wearing stretchy pants and snuggling your dog all day, the thought of leaving the house every day can be a little scary—especially when the risk of coronavirus still looms.

“Walk in with the understanding that you’re not walking back into the same workplace that you left,” Kansas City Health Department deputy director Frank Thompson says. “It may be the same physical face, but the routines and patterns are going to be different as a result of the situation that we’re in now.”Look to these expert tips to make the transition of heading back to the office a little easier.

Health

Let’s face the facts: The office is one of the germiest places you can encounter, coronavirus pandemic or not. According to WebMD, more than ten million bacteria live on a typical office desk—four hundred times more bacteria than found on the average toilet seat.

Before bringing employees back into the workplace, the health department recommends that employers make sure all workspaces have been properly sanitized and that, once employees are back in the office, all high-touch surfaces like light switches, handrails and doorknobs are wiped clean multiple times a day using a disinfectant.

“Wiping down those high-contact surfaces is crucial,” Thompson says. “That’s what we do here at the health department. We ad-justed our contract with our maintenance crew so that every day, multiple times a day, they’re wiping down high-contact surfaces in our building.”

When it’s your turn to head back into the office, Thompson says wearing a mask is strongly encouraged, though the department can’t enforce it at every office (it’s up to the employer). “Employers should either require or at least allow employees who want to wear masks to wear a mask,” he says. He also says it’s a smart idea to keep a no-touch thermometer on-hand at the office for employee use.

The city is encouraging workplaces to keep a log of names and contact information of individuals who have been inside the establishment for more than ten minutes. That way, if a positive case is logged, the city can narrow down a list of everyone the infected individual could have exposed.

Pets

As many pet owners head back to the office, they leave furry friends back at home who have been loving the extra bonding time. Except for most cats, that is.

“The way this transition will probably work is that dogs are going to hate it and cats are going to love it,” says Dr. Brad Twigg, a veterinarian at Plaza Animal Clinic. He says that when Kansas City’s stay-at-home or-der started and many pet owners began working from home, his clinic saw a rise in cats with issues related to stress.

Most dogs, on the other hand, are relishing in the extra time with their humans—so much so that Twigg has had an influx of dogs come in with sore muscles from longer and more frequent walks.

In transitioning away from working from home, Twigg recommends that owners slowly start to leave dogs alone at home for a few hours at a time and monitor their food intake; considering most dogs are more active than normal right now, they’re probably hungrier. When owners go back to work, dogs will likely become more sedentary. If they continue eating like they’re living a super active lifestyle, they could gain weight and injure themselves. Keep feeding dogs the recommended amount of food for their size and breed.

With most dog daycares and fenced-in dog parks closed, chances are your pooch hasn’t socialized much with other dogs. Slowly ease them into the company of more pups before daycares and parks start to open.

“Start taking them on walks through regular parks, where they’ll probably see other dogs,” Twigg says. “Then slowly introduce them to a dog park [when they open] or somewhere where they’ll be in more close quarters with other dogs.”

Fashion

If you’ve been living in sweatpants and T-shirts for the past two months, you’re not alone.

Molly Bingaman, founder and CEO of personal styling studio Ladybird, says that those transitioning from working at home to the office should take it slow.

“Allow yourself a grace period,” she says. “Any time there’s like a major change in your life, you’re gonna see it show up in your style choices.”

When Kansas City’s stay-at-home order started back in March, the climate was still in a typical Midwest winter-to-spring purgatory, leaving most of us in sweaters and jeans. And with most stores closed or at limited capacities, a spring wardrobe refresh hasn’t been in the cards for many. Before stuffing your online shopping cart, Bingaman first recommends assessing your current wardrobe.

“Sometimes the biggest thing you can do is actually get rid of stuff you already have,” she says. “Then you can make investments in a smarter way rather than thinking, ‘I just need new stuff.’”

Some people may also find that clothes fit a bit tighter and are not as comfortable as they were pre-quarantine—and that’s OK. Bingaman recommends wearing relaxed and forgiving fabrics like knit, which will make the transition from pajama pants to business casual attire a little easier.

“There’s no one rule other than to pay attention to what your body wants to put on,” Bingaman says.

Categories: Business, Fashion, Health & Wellness