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  • Linda R. Taliaferro

3 Ways to Beat the Dread of Going Back to the Office

I don't have to tell you that 2020 and 2021 were hard. After the violence and injustice that we saw, the troubling events in the news, and a global pandemic, the world is vastly different now than it was in 2019.

I think that's perhaps why it's been so hard to imagine going back to work in the office, as if nothing has changed.

Recently in a conversation with Cheryl Thompson on the Being Brown at Work Live, she brought up that the "ideal office worker" concept was invented largely in the 1950s. This "ideal" worker was someone who could come in early and stay late, because they had a partner at home who looked after the children.

That model is much, much less common today as the workplace has diversified. Yet, we stuck with that working model (5 days a week in the office) without question until a global pandemic forced us to change.

One of the advantages of working from home for Black and Brown women has been the freedom of not having to work in white, male-dominated spaces. Working in our own homes with our loved ones and the things that make us comfortable, being free from micro (and macro) aggressions from white colleagues, and expressing ourselves without fear of being called unprofessional; these are huge advantages for women of color. If you're like me, the idea of going back into the office with any regularity gives you some anxiety.

But if your work is asking you to return to the office and you're feeling anxious about it, here are a few things that I hope will give you some comfort.

Work will be more flexible.

Although I personally believe that corporations will primarily have people working at least some of the time out of offices in the future, the past 2 years have proved that we can work from home. Simply put, today's workforce won't accept work that requires 100% in-office attendance. Remember that you have the leverage to negotiate. Your office policies are likely going to have more flexibility.

People are more willing to talk.

One of the good things to come out of the past year is that people are more likely to be open to having conversations about racial conflict (and racial harmony!). Where it was once seen as taboo to discuss these things in the workplace, it's now much more common and prioritized.

You can cultivate your own safe network.

Even within the office space, we still have our own smaller social circles. Though you might physically be in the office, your desk and social circle at work can still be filled with things that are nourishing and supportive. You can cultivate a supportive environment within a more stressful environment. Make a list of what things make you feel comfortable. Maybe you want a new desk chair at the office. Maybe you want to keep dressing down a bit. Come up with a list of people in your office who make you feel supported and true to yourself, then take time to see and associate with those people.

Things are different now, and we all have to find a way to make the "new normal" work for us. Be intentional in your actions, leverage your support network, and realize how working in person has changed.

If you want to add a new resource to your network, you might benefit from career coaching. Click here to put a one-on-one with me on your calendar, and we can talk about your next steps.

You might also like to read my free guide, "Workplace Confidence for Black and Brown Women," which I created to help Black and Brown women in the workplace overcome their stumbling blocks and identify their strengths.

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