Returning to the office…with intention

Intention for the future, involves a belief about what one is going to do and why.

Returning to the office? Feeling excited, anxious, or somewhere in between? For those working from home, you can expect a range of conflicting emotions. The good news is that while the directive to stay home in March 2020 was unplanned and chaotic, returning to the office in 2021 can and should be done with intention.

Whether you are already in the office or planning for it, now is the time to set intentions about how time spent in the office will support your well-being and personal goals. Even if you don’t have a return date yet, you can begin to visualize what the office represents to you.

Here are a few tips to guide you:

  1. Be clear on your health and well-being goals

    If we’ve learned one thing from the pandemic, it’s that we can no longer pretend our work and personal lives are separate. Whether you expect to be in the office five days a month or five days a week, it’s important that your daily habits and routines support your health goals.

    Have you made a healthy change that you want to keep, even when you’re in the office? Maybe it’s getting out for a walk at lunch. Start thinking now about how you will make that walk happen, regardless of where you’re working. It can help to find a buddy who shares this intention.

  2. Know what works best for you

    Everyone will have a personal view on what tasks are best suited to the office vs. at home. Begin with what you miss most. Is it the spontaneous flow of ideas with your team? The downtown vibe? Water cooler connections? If you’re in a hybrid model, be thoughtful as you plan your time so workspaces are used in a way that serves and inspires you.

  3. Give feedback

    We are in a historic moment where there is no one guide or best practice to follow. We are recovering from a global pandemic and accelerating towards new, digital ways of working. You can bet your leaders are focused on making good decisions for people and the business, and they will need your input along the way. Be ready to share your feedback on what’s working for you, and the opportunities you see.

    More than ever, direct and transparent conversations about the highs and lows of different work arrangements are needed to shape the future of work.

  4. Anticipate some anxiety

    Uncertainty breeds anxiety, and we are in uncertain times. Knowing your signs and symptoms of stress – and what triggers them – will help you manage them well. You may be concerned about health protocols, manager expectations, or social obligations. It’s important to pause and notice how you’re feeling. What self-care routines can you draw from in high stress moments? Consider making a playlist for your commute, or trying a meditation app such as Calm or Headspace. Reflect often on what’s in your control, and what isn’t.

  5. Have fun with it!

    Last but equally important – be intentional about the return to office fun factor! Where will you dine? What will you wear? Those choices, and countless others, can play tribute to the past or open up new experiences. Set an intention around being creative in the ways you use workspace to be well, perform at your best, and thrive.

Jennifer Elia is an authority on workplace health and performance who believes you can’t have one without the other. As founder and president of Jewell Works, Jen draws on her expertise in HR, wellness, and mental health to help organizations and individuals challenge the "old normal" and thrive in the future of work. You can reach Jen on LinkedIn at

Jennifer Elia, President and Founder, JEWELL Health & Performance Consulting
Twitter: @elia_jen

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