Over the last couple of weeks people across the UK have experienced the most significant easing of lockdown restrictions for months.

It certainly feels like life is starting to return to normal, although there is still some way to go.

Getting back into the office will be on the minds of many of us. Some larger employers have already set their stalls out in terms of what the rest of the year looks like, balancing a different way of working, how people want to work, and what the business needs.

This week I had my first face-to-face meeting in 15 months. Getting to the meeting involved a two-hour train journey – the first time I’d used public transport since Friday 13th March 2020.

Reflecting on the day, there are a few things I should have told myself the night before:

  • You don’t need to lay out your clothes overnight like you’re going on your first Cub camp. It won’t save you any time. In fact, it’s all very well and good getting your clothes ready the night before, but you’d be wise to check that they actually fit.
  • No matter how hard you try, you’re not going to lose two stone overnight by going to the gym for the first time in 15 months. Accept you’ve put on weight and accept you’ve probably got a bit lazy, but make a promise to yourself that you’re going to get better.
  • Some things never change. That train you wanted to catch to get you to Edinburgh for 10am will be cancelled. Make sure you have a backup plan.
  • Try to remember the PIN for your credit card before arriving at the train station and having a mental block.
  • Face recognition on iPad doesn’t work when wearing a face covering.
  • Don’t drink two cups of coffee and a pint of water half an hour before leaving the house. The toilet on the train, and at the train station, will both be locked.
  • Takeaway coffee is really expensive. Why not take that lovely reusable cup your company gave you when you rebranded. And it will taste better. (In your defence, you did take the branded water bottle, notepad and hand sanitiser. Branded face covering??)
  • Wearing a mask for two hours isn’t as bad as you think it’s going to be. In fact, you’ll forget you’re even wearing it.
  • Embrace the simple pleasure of walking we’ve all rediscovered during lockdown. But if you’re going to walk a fair distance, don’t do it in new shoes.
  • Use those four hours on the train more productively than being a slave to your emails. It was valuable time away from a screen to think about that big proposal.
  • Don’t be surprised that the Metro is still around, despite it being reliant upon commuters. Never underestimate the power of a newspaper.
  • Practice having a conversation with your partner or a friend, on a mildly serious topic other than what you’re having for dinner. Despite gearing yourself up for what you think is going to be a relatively informal meeting, your mouth won’t keep up with your brain for the first 15 minutes.
  • Get over the awkwardness of wearing a mask to a meeting, or not being able to shake hands – it isn’t going away any time soon and everyone is in the same boat.
  • Don’t do the elbow thing. That’s still weird.
  • Teams or Zoom meetings serve a purpose but absolutely nothing beats meeting a long-time trusted colleague for the first time in months, or a new client for the first time ever.
  • Pretty much everyone is going through the same thing – if you’re nervous about getting back into public, it will soon pass.
  • Although it will feel as if you’ve been working on your own for the last 15 months, you’re not alone but actually part of a pretty amazing team. Trusted and top-drawer colleagues will always have your back.

As we all start to get back into the swing of normal things again, it’s important to recognise any concerns you’ve got and talk to your employer. It’s also really important that employers talk to their teams about their plans to reopen offices or other places of work. There is a chance to do some things slightly differently, but it’s also a chance to get back to doing what we do best. Being human.

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