Most people think that working remotely is the work equivalent of “living the dream.” And for some people (like me!), it is.
But remote work isn’t everyone’s ideal setup—and many remote workers eventually make the decision to go in-house.
Making the jump from a remote situation back into an office can be challenging. But it doesn’t have to be! Here are four must-know tips for making the leap from working remotely to working in an office a successful one, from real people who have made the transition themselves.
1. Get Clear on Your Reasons
Most people don’t wake up one day, after working remotely for months or years, and say on a whim, “Hmm...I think I’ll go work in an office now.” They have a concrete idea about why they want to say goodbye to the remote life and go back to working in an office—and getting clear on that reason is key to making the transition a successful one.
“My advice for anyone going back is to know your why,” says Julia Angelen Joy, Account Director at Swyft and a PR tech professional who has made the transition from remote to in-office (and back again!) multiple times in her 20+-year career.
Are you making the move because you find remote work isolating? Does an in-office position offer more stability than your freelance life? Are you sick of the freelance grind and want more predictable working hours?
For Joy, that “why” during her most recent transition was all about growth. “Working as a consultant for years was awesome but I found that while I advised teams, I was not really part of a team, and I was often the person in the room with the most experience. It felt great to lead, but I wanted to grow,” says Joy. In her current role, she says, “the team is very collaborative and I receive feedback, advice, and input from different disciplines and vantage points, which makes me better at my job.”
Being clear on your reasons will make the decision to transition to working in an office easier. It can also help you push through those hard times you’ll inevitably face when you start to question whether giving up the remote life was the right move for you—like the first time you get stuck in traffic on your way to the office or those times when you find yourself struggling to get things done thanks to a chatty colleague.
2. Ease Your Way In
Going from working remotely 100% of the time to working in an office 100% of the time can feel a little jarring—and a lot overwhelming. Instead of jumping in headfirst, see if you can gradually transition into full-time office life.
For Sarah Anderson, returning to the office life and being surrounded by other people was exciting—but also nerve-racking. “As a remote freelancer, I could really listen to and honor my own rhythms and feelings. Adapting to a set schedule would change that for me,” says Anderson, who is now a digital content and SEO specialist at boldSOCKS.com.
Anderson recognized that she needed more flexibility in her schedule. “Luckily, my bosses are very accommodating and always encouraging me to find the flow that works the best for me,” she says. “[I] usually take at least one day remotely, just to switch things up. I’ve found that that really helps my productivity level remain high all week and I’m not walking into Friday completely burned out.”
Asking your new supervisor if you can work from home one or two days per week—at least to start off—can make the shift from working remotely to working on-site a lot more manageable. And, as you get more settled into your routine at the office, you can cut that remote time back to a half a day (or no days!) of remote work.
If your company doesn’t have a flexible work-at-home policy, see if you can propose an off-site for your team once a month to work from a nearby coffee shop or co-working space. Not only will the change in scenery help you avoid feeling “stuck” in the office, but it can also help spark creative ideas—which is a win for everyone.
3. Stock Your Desk
One of the major perks of working from home is having everything you might need throughout the day right at your fingertips (and even if you work remotely from another spot, you probably have the flexibility to get up whenever to get whatever). If you’re hungry, you can go get a snack (and not just any snack—the exact snack you’re craving at that exact moment). If you want to listen to music, you can turn it up—or at least pop in your earbuds. If you want to get comfortable, you can grab a cozy sweater from your closet.
Having everything you need provides a certain level of comfort. And you can have that same level of ease and convenience when you start working in an office—you just need to think a few steps ahead.
“Keep a stash of things you might need in your desk,” says Crystal Paschal, a project manager at digital agency Ayokay who recently transitioned to an in-person role after 10 years of working remotely as a freelancer. “I got used to having quick access to things like headphones, medication, or snacks at home, and I forgot that these things won’t necessarily be waiting for me at an office.” Bringing in all the essentials made Paschal feel more ready to tackle her new role and get work done. “Having everything I need definitely makes me feel more comfortable.”
During your first few days in your new in-house role, take stock of what’s available at the office (so, for example, chances are you won’t need to bring your own office supplies—your company probably has that handled). Then, make sure you prepare your desk with whatever else you might need to feel comfortable and do your best work—like headphones, your daily planner, a reusable water bottle, healthy snacks, or an extra phone charger.
4. Focus on the Positives
A lot of people struggle with the shift from remote to in-office work because they’re concentrating on all the things they enjoyed about working remotely. But if you want a smooth (and happy!) transition, it’s important to focus not only on the “why” that spurred your move, but also on all the positive opportunities that come along with your new gig.
Take a glass-half-full approach to your new situation and consciously look for positives in your new day-to-day routine. Do you have an amazing supervisor who takes a mentorship role? Do you find your new office space creatively inspiring? Do you love having a reason to get up at a reasonable hour? The point is, there are some definite advantages to working in an office that you won’t get when working remotely—and the trick to making the transition easier is to focus on those advantages.
Shiwon Oh, who works in content marketing at Fueled, has found that the positives of her new role—in particular, the accountability of working in an office—have made the transition from working remotely to working in an office completely worth it. “Though it was convenient to be working from the comfort of my own room, it was challenging to boost my work ethic—my schedule was too flexible and there was no one around to keep me accountable,” she says.
Without the accountability of working in an office, Oh struggled with an unpredictable sleep schedule. She often got a late start to the day—and worked well into the evening. Now that she’s in-house, Oh’s strict daily wake-up time of 7:30 AM allows her to start and end work earlier, which helps her squeeze more free time into her day to relax and have fun. “I have a better work-life balance than when I was working remotely,” says Oh.
We get it—change is never easy. But if you’re thinking about getting back into the office after a good chunk of time living the remote life, the switch doesn’t have to totally throw you off your game.
If you want to settle into your new role with as few setbacks as possible, you need to be proactive. Seek out mentors to help acclimate you to your new company. Find a new morning routine that helps you get amped up to head to the office. Follow the tips we outlined above. Do whatever you need to do to make the transition as easy, quick, and seamless as possible. And if you’re struggling to adjust to life in the office, speak up! Your team can’t support you if they don’t know you’re struggling.
There are going to be days when you question why you left remote work. In those moments, make sure to remind yourself why you switched to an in-office role—and why your new gig is a million times better than your last.
Photo of person working on a laptop with headphones, a mug, and various supplies on their desk courtesy of Westend61/Getty Images.
Deanna deBara is a freelance writer living in Portland, OR. When she's not busy building her business or typing away at her keyboard, she enjoys spending time hiking in the Pacific Northwest, traveling with her soon-to-be husband, or doting on her dog, Bennett. You can follow her on Twitter (she's a newbie!) at @Deanna_deBara.More from this Author