The land of cubicles is witnessing a return in 2021 after the mass exodus that it had witnessed in 2020. Nonetheless, we can all sense that it is a shy return. Reasons behind this half in half out the door situation are various. With the rise of the Delta variant and all the uncertainty around the return to the office, we decided to ask our team a few questions about their journey since the early days of 2020 till this current time.

What we found was that almost two third of the ighcc family prefers the Hybrid model over any other type of work environment. Some of our team members believe that the hybrid model suits them best because it gives them the right balance between, managing their energy levels and maintaining their well-being all while still being social. Something that work solely from the office or from home is not able to provide. Against our expectations and the trend, next in the line of preference, is working from the office. One of the common reasons behind this opinion is the lack of suitable environment for productivity at home.

The transition from an office job to working remotely was different for every member of our team just like it was for the millions of workers around the world. On the large spectrum of emotions, some of our team members felt like the change was “brutal” while others felt like it was “smooth”. Similarly, the time it took for every one of us to adapt to this new reality was different. Some felt like it was instantaneous while others needed a fair amount of time and found it a bit difficult at first. What was surprising is that a few members still did not adapt to the new reality that was handed to us.

Several studies have shown the effect of the long lockdowns on mental health in the past couple of years. In fact, one study conducted by Evans et al., found that there was an increase in depression symptoms in the general population. Even though this might be the case for a large number of people, we cannot deny that this lockdown was a safe haven for some individuals who built new habits and routines which we will discuss later, which in turn improved their mental health. We asked our team members about this specific topic. We found that almost 30% of the ighcc team’s mental health improved while the rest was split between no effect and deterioration of their mental health.

As for habit building, it was something all of the team members experienced. Just like most of the internet, some of us indulged in cooking and eating. Others did not introduce new habits but tried to restructure old ones like working out, eating healthy and taking work breaks more seriously.  No wonder this social phenomenon saw a rise with the start of the pandemic. Routines and habits are a great way to keep structure and feel more in control in a world that lacked stability.

The unfortunate drawback of going back to the office is that not all of us believe we will be able to maintain the life we have built at home. The time dedicated to certain activities might be lost in the time to commute to work for example. The days will automatically become more hectic. On the other hand, some of us completely shifted our behaviors that we believe it will be possible to maintain all the habits we have formed.

Another area that has shifted and changed is priorities. “From growth to survival”, we all became in fight or flight mode and our top priority became the protection of ourselves and our loved ones,. But we tried to dig a little deeper and understand priority shifting in these difficult times better. Some team members went on an introspective journey and realized that there are key things they should work on such as procrastination and agility therefore shifted their focus towards them. On the other hand, a very common shift of priority was from career to family and health. The volatility and brutality of the pandemic made the most of us realize how highly we held our careers. Way higher than our families and health. It’s like we took them for granted and it was time to tilt the balance.

After taking our team members through the past couple of years and as we are trying to see the light at the end of the tunnel, we decided to ask them about the things they would like to keep once we are fully back to the office. Even though in the previous questions a lot of the team members shared the same opinions. The answers to this question were very different.

They want to keep love. They want to keep time.  They want to keep choices. They want to keep the core values they discovered.

The remaining question is, what are the things we can do to keep these things? How can we sustain our mental health, keep our habits and stay focused on our priorities?

The first advice that can be crucial to mental health is learning how to say No. Once you are capable of saying no to requests you believe you are unable to achieve whether in your personal or professional life, it will slowly teach you to draw healthy boundaries.

One the other hand, when it comes to habits, do not carry the weight of wanting to maintain all the habits you built at home. Pick one habit that you think you want to start with and introduce it to your daily life. Once you feel like it is solid and it is now part of your routine, pick another one and work to sustain it. This is a cycle that you can repeat. Remember that we all want our dopamine fix. Every time we build a habit and sustain it we are enabling our reward system which will push us even further and motivate us even more.

Finally, when it comes to your priorities, take a step back and look at your life and how you would want it to be. Bring in the fresh perspective and priority shift, modify or even draw a new path. Look at your big picture and see what small steps you can do to reach it.

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