Is it time for your office transition?
As restrictions loosen all over the country, it feels like life is finally going back to normal. For some, a return to normal also means a return to the office. While plenty of people are eager to get back into the swing of things, many employees aren’t so happy.
The push for workers to return to the office is an especially hard pill to swallow for Black employees. During the pandemic, Black men and women took to social media to share how working from home made a positive impact on their lives. Many felt that remote work provided them some relief from the daily microaggressions and other frustrations that they endured in the office.
A Future Forum Pulse survey reports that full-time employees are twice as likely to struggle with work-life balance than those with more flexible schedules. Because of this, many employees report feelings of dissatisfaction related to their work environment. These feelings often worsen, leading to added stress and anxiety.
A lot of companies are pushing their employees to return to the office, without question. Many people find the request unreasonable considering so many companies perform well, if not better, under a remote working schedule. With this in mind, it’s no wonder that so many have decided that resigning is in their better interest.
Various reports discussing “The Great Resignation” are circulating on the internet. People of all backgrounds are quitting their jobs en masse. And while some people can afford to resign abruptly, the average person is not as fortunate.
If an office transition is in your future, here are some tips for how Black employees can make returning to the office easier:
Pack On-The-Go Self Care Essentials
Returning to work can cause elevated levels of stress and anxiety. Because of this, it’s important to practice self-care, even while at work. Packing some self-care essentials can help make the transition easier on your mental health.
A weighted blanket, for instance, can help keep you warm while also providing comfort and security. When you’re feeling stressed, your skin can suffer, too. Hydrate and soothe your skin with a facial mist so you can maintain healthy skin no matter where you are.
Other self-care essentials may include:
- A small heating pad for tense or sore muscles
- Blue-light blocking glass to keep your eyes protected from eye strain
- Comfortable slip-on shoes to wear while you’re at your desk
- A toothbrush kit to keep your teeth clean while you face coworkers and clients
- A posture corrector to keep you from hunching over at your desk
Get a Calendar
Part of the appeal of working from home is the added freedom that comes with it. Using a calendar is a smart way to maintain some of that freedom by keeping organized. Treat yourself to a cute calendar that you can use to help you better plan upcoming events.
Many Black women try to avoid negative labels at work by being more agreeable. Unfortunately, it’s easy to spread yourself thin by agreeing to help anyone who asks. Reduce overscheduling by maintaining an organized calendar to refer to. This way, you can see an overview of your schedule to circumvent accepting too many work requests.
Camouflauge Quarantine Weight
During the lockdown, many people started to eat more and work out less. Because of this, a lot of men and women put on weight. Unfortunately, obtaining that “perfect body” before heading back to the office is not doable for most people. Instead, you can hide that quarantine weight with the help of some fashion items.
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Kimonos are a stylish way to hide extra pudge. They’re loose-fitting and come in a variety of colors and styles.
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Other loose-fitting clothing items like slouchy sweaters, oversized button-downs, and silk camisole tops are great to wear because they can look professional and won’t hug your curves. Tuck your top into a pair of slacks and accessorize with a belt to camouflage added weight gain.
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Baggy dresses are also smart to wear because they’re good at concealing belly fat and other core problems areas.
Start Making Healthy Habits
Taking care of your health isn’t an option, it’s a necessity. Part of that requires making healthy choices for your body.
Prepare healthy meals at least the night before. Even though it’s easy, grabbing lunch from a fast-food chain during a short lunch break isn’t healthy. Planning meals in advance can ensure that you’re getting adequate nutrition while saving money.
For a quick pick-me-up, skip the iced coffee and opt for your favorite caffeinated tea. Caffeinated teas provide nutrients and energy that can help keep you going throughout the day. Not to mention, a warm cup of tea in the morning is a soothing way to start the day.
Going for a quick walk around the office during your break or lunch is another important way to add to your health.
When you’re not feeling your best, your work performance can suffer. You can boost your overall health by eating healthy foods, getting regular sleep, and exercising.
Plan the Night Before
Getting ready for work in the morning can be difficult, especially when you don’t want to go at all. You can make the process simpler by preparing yourself in advance. Plan your mornings ahead of time by preparing your meals and laying out your work clothes the night before.
Many people find themselves rushing to get ready for work only to leave the house with a donut or sugary-breakfast bar in hand. A healthier alternative to this is preparing breakfast in advance. Overnight oats, chia puddings, and yogurt parfaits are delicious breakfast foods that can be made and stored overnight.
When planning work attire, remember to lay out smaller items like watches, jewelry, and sock as well. Check the weather forecast the night before to ensure that your clothing is appropriate for the weather the next morning. Keep an extra umbrella and jacket in the trunk of your car for unexpected rainy days.
Make Lunchtime, Your Time
A lot of employees skip their breaks because there’s simply not enough time to take them. Fortunately, lunch breaks are mandated so it’s important to make the most of the time given.
Eating light, healthy meals helps to provide nutrients and doesn’t weigh you down. Opt for chicken, fish, salads, or light sandwiches to avoid feeling tired when you return to your desk.
A quick walk or jog around the office is a great way to incorporate exercise while at work. You can also pack a yoga mat to take to a nearby park to meditate and relieve stress. Books to read and adult coloring books are also good stress-relievers to help you look forward to your lunch break.
Black women have been vocal about how working from home improved their overall self-esteem. Returning to an office where you feel like you don’t belong is especially difficult. To maintain a sense of self-worth, it’s important to celebrate yourself regularly.
Treating yourself to a glass of wine after work, having a girls’ night in with close friends, or purchasing a new eyeshadow palette are all ways that can help you maintain your sanity. You can even treat yourself while at work by scheduling a quick pedicure or massage during your lunch break. You can also buy yourself a bouquet of flowers to set on your desk as an act of self-love.
Talk Strategy With Your Employer
Just because the world is opening back up doesn’t mean that the coronavirus is a thing of the past. The virus is still a threat to many people, especially the unvaccinated. Many Black Americans are understandably hesitant to trust the government to protect their health. Because of this, a segment of the Black community is unvaccinated.
Discuss the plans that your employer has for protecting employees from contracting COVID-19. Many companies have developed policies that outline how they plan to enforce a safe and healthy work environment. Some questions to ask include:
- Have any safety measures and precautions been put in place to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission? If so, what are they?
- How does the company plan to handle employees who don’t follow COVID-19 restrictions inside the office?
- How has the layout of the office changed to accommodate social distancing?
Confide in a Coworker
After two years of remote work, your social skills are likely a bit rusty. If you have a coworker that you can trust, consider reaching out to them for support. You may find that they echo your sentiments about the return to the office.
Feeling isolated at work is common for many Black women, especially those who are shy or introverted. Getting reconnected with your coworkers can help remind you that you’re not alone. Black women who have someone to confide in at work can mentally prepare for returning to on-site work. It’s a great way to shift your energy from disappointment to excitement upon seeing some familiar faces.
Talk About It
According to a report from the University of Cambridge, a third of young people reported feeling a boost in their mental and overall wellbeing during the COVID-19 lockdown. Such is the case with many employees who work remotely as well. Employees may feel stressed, anxious, and even depressed as employers push for an office return. When this happens, it may be time to consider speaking with a professional.
Although it’s looked down upon in parts of the Black community, thoughts surrounding therapy are quickly changing. Therapy can be a great tool to support your mental health. Discussing your concerns with a professional can ease your anxieties and make the transition to the office much easier.
If you or someone you know is suicidal or in emotional distress, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Trained crisis workers are available to talk 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Your confidential and toll-free call goes to the nearest crisis center in the Lifeline national network. These centers provide crisis counseling and mental health referrals.
Find Your People
According to a Gallup Center on Black Voices survey, “Black women are less likely to feel they are treated with respect in the workplace. They are also less likely to feel like a valued member of their team and that their coworkers treat everyone fairly.” If Black women don’t feel like they belong, it can negatively impact their sense of self.
If you’re having trouble connecting with other employees at your company, make sure to cultivate your relationships outside of work. Having a sisterhood of women that you can identify with can provide a sense of belonging. Humans are social creatures so it’s good to create and maintain your tribe.
Some Black women find their circle in church, others find it at school. A good way to make friends is to join a class or club with other regular attendees. Maintaining consistent contact is important for developing close friendships.