With sweet freedom comes great responsibility. And work.

We’re not going to lie: months upon months of lockdowns across Australia has slowed down the momentum in our lives. All this monotonous time spent at home feels like an unwanted vacation. Unwanted because our only time outside consisted of daily walks and weekly grocery shopping. But now the light at the end of the tunnel is blinding – we’re heading back to work!

The idea of returning to work after COVID-19 is a little daunting because we know that it’s not just work. It’s the early wake ups, the actual getting ready (yes, including pants!), and real-life office politics.

How do we cope? Thankfully, we’ve put together a handy guide with five tips on how to prepare and help you go back to the office in 2021:

1. Prime your energy through routine or plans

Even if you’re still waiting to get back to the workplace, now is the perfect time to develop routines and plans. You need to build the momentum now so you’re not dragged too fast when your first work day hits. Start planning your days with scheduled events. Take a walk with a neighbour, call friends or family, bake triple choc brownies, even add in ‘make your bed’.

Build your momentum with things to do, even if they’re not entirely productive. It’s about priming your energy so you’re ready to go when the time comes.

If you’re not a fan of strictly timed routines, perhaps just plan your day with tasks and activities. We recommend a Bullet Journal, made famous by Ryder Carroll.

2. Make time for yourself

Getting back to work is great and all, but it’s not your whole life. There’s you to worry about as well. One thing you do not want to do is run yourself into the ground at work, leading to what psychologists call ‘burnout’.

According to Psychology Today, burnout is defined as “a state of emotional, mental, and often physical exhaustion brought on by prolonged or repeated stress.”

“Equally pressing is working toward a goal that doesn’t resonate, or when a person lacks support. If a person doesn’t tailor responsibilities to match a true calling, or at least take a break once in a while, they could face burnout.”

Burnout can lead to physical and mental health problems, including headaches, fatigue, heartburn and other gastrointestinal symptoms, as well as the misuse of drugs, alcohol and food.

To avoid burnout, make time for yourself. Do things that you want to do, activities that you actually enjoy – especially if your work isn’t absolutely rewarding. And never feel guilty for taking a break. You won’t be much use to your boss if you’re lagging.

As the saying goes: “If you don’t make time for your wellness, you’ll be forced to make time for your illness.”

3. Remember why you work

At Hunter & Bligh, we write because we are curious. We love discovering cool new things around Australia and telling you everything about it.

Now your turn! Why do you love your work? For the instant gratification? Do you love keeping everything organised? Or maybe it’s the people you work with?

Honing into the why behind your work is a powerful way to keep on track. It gives you something to focus on while you’re easing your way back into work mode.

And if you’re struggling to find things you like about your work, maybe it’s time for a change?

4. Break down tasks into small chunks

The rungs on a ladder are specifically spaced so you can climb it as easily as possible. If they’re too far apart, it gets harder to climb.

Your daily tasks should be the same.

If you’ve got a big task ahead of you, as well as a few smaller ones, start on the small ones first. Get them out of the way. You are ticking off small wins, filling your gas tank with motivational fuel. You are fueling your climb. And once you’ve ticked off enough small tasks, you should have enough energy to tackle the bigger ones. But even big tasks can be broken into small chunks.

Instead of looking at your next written report as a massive drain of energy, break it up into sections – from introduction to the conclusion. Now you can tell yourself “finish the introduction”, which is much easier than “finish the entire report”.

Because how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time…

5. Be nice to yourself

As much as we all dream of a seamless reintegration back to the office in 2021, rarely will this be the case. It’s a big moment going back to work – whether you’ve previously been working from home or not working at all. So be nice to yourself if things go pear shaped.

The good news is that most mistakes can be fixed. Instead of wallowing in self-pity, you should dust yourself off, acknowledge you made a mistake and see how you can fix it. If you can’t fix it, then just accept it, say sorry if you need to, and move on to the next thing.

As Charles Dickens once wrote: “Least said, soonest mended.” This means you shouldn’t go overboard when saying sorry – whether to others or to yourself.

In the end, enjoy this change. It’s an exciting moment and it should be treated as such. Have fun, be nice to yourself and work smarter, not harder.

Did you know, you’re not alone with all this stress around working during this pandemic. Here’s everything you need to know about Supporting Mental Health in a COVID-19 Workplace. If you need some stress relief, here are the Top 10 Meditation Apps of 2021.

Feature image: Photographed by LightField Studios. Image via Shutterstock.