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Life after graduation

Switching from Zoom to the office? Here's how to prepare.

Advice from recent grads about adjusting to your new routine.

About the author: Emily Curtis is a writer based in Boston. She graduated from Emerson in 2022 with a degree in Writing, Literature, and Publishing, and is currently getting her masters in Publishing. You can find her on Instagram or read more on her website.

Many recent college graduates are transitioning to working in the office after years of remote schooling and launching professional careers in their living rooms. And some may feel unprepared to adjust to an in-person environment.

If you’re about to transition to in-office work and are feeling apprehensive, keep reading for stories, expectations, and tips from recent graduates who have experienced it.

Interacting with your co-workers in person provides more opportunities for growth and learning.

“It is nice to have the ability to interact with people to ask questions about different work by just going to someone else's office or being able to find them elsewhere, as opposed to having to set up a Zoom call or a phone call. It's nice to have personal interaction too.”

Christopher Shorey, Duke University, JD-MBA

Remote learning and working do not provide many instances for conversation with peers and colleagues, limiting opportunities for growth in your position, as well as your career. Ultimately, whether you work in a cubicle or an office or gather with co-workers in a meeting space, you’ll have more chances for collaboration and knowledge sharing.

You’re gaining the daily social interactions you lacked when remote.

“I was surprised at how easy it was to get back to an in-person environment. I was eager to see other people and felt more motivated going to a building rather than just opening a laptop in my room.”

Caroline Niehoff, Rhode Island College Class of 2022, Media Communications

“My tips for success for those transitioning to in-person school or work is to [...] work on making connections, whether that’s your classmates or co-workers, to have something to look forward to about coming in.”

Jenna Clukey, Bowdoin College Class of 2022, Neuroscience and Classics

Social interaction is just as valuable and important to mental health as exercise or going outside. In-person work can help you gain back a sense of community and improve your overall work experience and productivity.

Create a new routine to still fit in the things you love.

“I think the most challenging [aspect] is time management because you have so much more time for other things like cooking and working out if you work remotely.”

Jenna Clukey, Bowdoin College Class of 2022, Neuroscience and Classics

If you’re transitioning from remote to in-person work, there will be a huge adjustment to your morning and night routine. Reevaluate your schedule and consider how much extra time working in person will take (i.e., preparation, commuting, traffic, etc.) so that you can still do the things you enjoy, such as cooking, exercising, journaling or reading, and more. And get clear on your company’s time-off policies for when you need to schedule doctor and DMV appointments.

“I was so used to logging into a Zoom meeting 2 minutes before it started, so it took me some time to be able to tell how much time to give myself to get ready and show up on time.”

Caroline Niehoff, Rhode Island College Class of 2022, Media Communications

With virtual work, many people were used to waking up minutes before their work day started. When in person, preparing yourself to have a successful day begins with waking up at least an hour before you’re scheduled to leave for work so you don’t feel rushed and frantic.

Prepare yourself–physically and mentally–for the commute.

For some, the commute to the office is the most challenging part of transitioning to in-person work. Many must deal with rush hour traffic, escape the subway crowds, and whatever weather comes their way. Mentally and physically, prepare yourself for the toll of commuting, especially in a city.

Try listening to a fun podcast or calming music while traveling, or bring a book to read. Bring your journal and write daily affirmations or goals. These small changes can significantly boost your mood and give you a more positive start to your day.

Remind yourself to be considerate to the people around you.

“Remember, it's a shared space. It's not your space. And so, you should act accordingly. When it comes to, for example, eating lunch at your desk, you should be considerate if you have something loud that could be distracting when you're eating it. [...] I think that the biggest thing is just you need to be thinking of others at all times.”

Christopher Shorey, Duke University, JD-MBA

If you have an extra pungent perfume or like to eat peanut butter at every lunch, check in with those near your desk. Maybe they have a sensitivity to fragrances, or maybe they are allergic to peanuts. Don’t be afraid to ask your colleagues directly!

Take advantage of in-person work to create a better balance between your personal and professional life.

“Try to segment your life so that when you're in the office, you're doing work, and when you're home, you're not doing work, and you're not thinking about work. I think that one thing that we lost during the pandemic was a semblance of ‘when I'm at the office, I'm working; when I'm home, I'm at home.’ That shut-off switch has kind of been blurred. I think that going back to the office can help us try to search for that right balance.”

Christopher Shorey, Duke University, JD-MBA

One of the best pieces of advice anyone who has experienced in-person work can give is to leave work at the office. You can help protect your mental health and prevent burnout by avoiding work emails, texts, or calls at home or off the clock.

Image courtesy of Cottonbro via Pexels

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