Letter to a Young Professional Returning to Work

5 Reminders to Help You Navigate Any Workplace 

Your first day at work may not have been that different from the day before. After all, you woke up, made some coffee, and powered up your laptop on the kitchen table. Thus, began your new job.

You didn’t have an orientation coffee, welcome lunch, or a happy hour.

Now, another layer of the experience.  You’ve been asked to work at least some of your hours in an office with your colleagues. 

We’ve observed the challenges you’re facing, and here are five reminders to help you navigate and thrive in your work experience.

Dress code angst.

We all got used to the business-on-top, party-on-the-bottom attire of WFH. Now you’re heading to the office in person, and no one has updated the rules! We’ve witnessed a huge amount of concern and frustration: 

  • “I don’t feel comfortable wearing a sweatshirt to work. What if a client drops by?”
  • “Why can’t I wear a sweatshirt? The people in marketing get to!”
  • “My boss never gives big projects to people who wear sweatshirts.”
  • Help!

The answer is more straightforward than you may realize. Take a moment in the mirror to consider whether you’re projecting a professional image, based on your industry and company culture. The old adage, “Dress for the job you want, not the job you have,” still holds true. Baseline? Even if a sweatshirt is the right choice, make sure it’s clean and fits well.

Plus, this is not an uncommon question to ask your manager or HR for an updated company dress code. 

Give a little grace.

Recently, our firm was facilitating a group. Several early career professionals made jokes on the side—that’s not unusual. One participant turned to her group and rolled her eyes. The strange part was that she didn’t seem to realize that the whole room saw her do it. 

Snarky looks and private chat comments we made remotely are now in high relief in person. 

That nonverbal response made some of the participants uncomfortable. Our facilitator found the eye-roller during a break and gave some kind feedback. This individual was surprised and grateful for the chance to change. She immediately behaved in a way that showed she was aware of the others in the room. 

We’re all a little rusty after conducting most of our interactions over video. A little patience can go a long way as we relearn social skills for in-person interactions.

Extend some love to remote team members!

If your colleague is hosting a remote meeting, try to offer your support. Help your team members conduct more successful video meetings by turning on your camera, providing resources in chat, and taking part in the conversation!

Be intentional about including your remote colleagues in a hybrid meeting. You might feel like you’re overdoing it, yet try to go out of your way to ask for their opinions to make sure their voices are heard. 

  • “Julie, do you have anything to add?”
  • “Remote team, what’s our best next step?”

Be in the office when your team is in the office.

The purpose of the physical workplace has changed. The office is no longer the place you go to get your work done. It’s where you get some work done AND go for team building, learning and socializing. If you have a choice of in-office days, be there when your boss or department is there.  

Research suggests that remote working gives new employees fewer opportunities to learn from co-workers. So much learning occurs outside of formal settings—in the kitchen getting coffee, over lunch, and any of those spaces people tend to gather. Take advantage of the time spent with your new colleagues. Invite them out for lunch or a quick walk for some get-to-know-you time. 

Do some friendly sleuthing on your co-workers.

When you work remotely, you tend to only meet the colleagues you work with directly. Before you head back to the office, take a look at the team page on your company website or connect on Linkedin. You might find out that you attended the same university as a co-worker or share a love of sailing with the IT director. Any kernel of information might jump start a conversation—and may begin a meaningful professional relationship.

Taking a few extra moments to prepare, will help you shine in your new role.

Heading back to the office has a lot of benefits, so intentionally make the most of that time—show up polished, ask questions and learn about your co-workers. And have fun whenever possible!

Citations: https://www.bbc.com/worklife/article/20211004-the-problem-with-losing-osmosis-learning

This article is 100% written by a human named Karen Hough. She is the Founder & CEO of ImprovEdge, in the top 4% of women-owned businesses in the US, a 3-time Amazon bestselling author, Yale grad, wife and mom of three.