Are you ready to return to the office?

For more than a year, the majority of offices on the main campus have sat empty in dark silence, accumulating dust and tall stacks of unopened mail—a lonely environment that even succulents couldn’t survive. But as the number of vaccinated employees at the U grows, lights are trickling on across campus and offices are starting to come back to life.

On May 17, the U hosted a Town Hall where administrators talked through many of the commonly asked questions about returning to work in person ranging from parking to travel to telecommuting options. If you missed it, watch it here. In addition, the U’s HR office recently launched a great new website called workreimagined.utah.edu with loads of information, including FAQs and return-to-work checklists for supervisors and employees.

While these resources are very helpful for the professional aspects of returning to the office, employees also have a lot to consider on the more personal side of things. And that is why we’ve gathered a list of 12 tips and considerations to help make the transition back to those dust-covered desks a little smoother.

1. Clarify your work arrangement

Thanks to the pandemic, the U now has a new philosophy on telecommuting and new options for employees. But there is no “one size fits all” approach, and decisions will be made at a supervisory level. No matter your arrangement, be sure to communicate clearly with your supervisor (or employees if you are a supervisor) so that your expectations moving forward are aligned. The site workreimagined.utah.edu has much more information on this topic, so read up.

2. Arrange for child care, if needed

With many child care providers taking a hiatus during the pandemic, you’ll want to act quickly to reserve remaining spots this summer or make alternate arrangements (like hiring a U student to nanny). Hopefully by this fall (if the pandemic keeps receding), most preschools and care centers will be up and running again at full capacity. If you are a supervisor, please be flexible, acknowledging that child care options for your employees may still be limited. For more info on child care options through the U, visit childcare.utah.edu.

3. Prepare for some pet separation anxiety (not just talking about the pets here)

You’ve likely become pretty attached to those furry faces over the past year. They may be what got you through some tough times. And separation anxiety is real, for both humans and animals, so much so that our HR team even includes a link about dog separation anxiety in their resources. You might want to ease into it and start by leaving your pet(s) home alone for smaller chunks of time before leaving for an entire workday.

4. Figure out your commute and parking strategies

What’s your game plan? If you’re commuting, have you considered a carpool? Does your car need a checkup? Do you need a new commute podcast lineup or playlist? And have you considered all your parking options? If you’re thinking public transit, do you have your UCard at the ready and a mask handy (buses and shuttles still require them)?

5. Take inventory of home office equipment

If it came from your U office, it may need to go back (monitors, chairs, cables, cords, etc.) If you are approved for continued hybrid telecommuting, talk with your supervisor to determine exactly what equipment needs to be returned. Then you can determine what you may need to supply yourself to maintain a functioning home office.

6. Ask if your office conference room is set up for hybrid meetings

Have you ever been the only person on a video call when all the others are present in the same room? It can be awkward and less than inclusive. Ask your supervisor or IT representative if your office has arranged the technology to host group meetings that are conducive for both remote and in-person attendees.

7. Keep healthy eating habits you’ve formed, ditch the bad

Some of us have been stress eating to cope during the pandemic, while others may have taken advantage of more time at home and picked up healthier habits. Either way now is the time to either keep it up or start anew. This might require meal-prepping on weekends, digging out the lunch box for home-packed, healthy meals and trying not to fall back into old bad habits—such as all-day binging from the not-so-healthy office treat drawer.

8. Conduct a work-appropriate clothing inventory

Sadly, sweat pants may not cut it in person (even those sporting the U logo). Whatever your office attire is, you might be wise to do a quick inventory of what you have and what still fits. And if you’re really not looking forward to going back to the office, maybe pick up something new that you’d be excited to wear to help give you some incentive (who doesn’t like sporting new shoes?).

9. Have a budget reality check

After being cooped up at home for a long time, you may be tempted to cut loose and get a latte on your way to the office or go out to lunch every day with colleagues. And after last year, you deserve it. But whether it’s sustainable for your pocketbook is another story. After the excitement has worn off, it might be wise to settle into a routine that better fits your budget.

10. Brush up on socialization skills

When you greet a colleague at work, do you wave or go for the pandemic-friendly elbow bump? And do you even remember how to make polite conversation? If you’re a little rusty on your people skills, you’re not alone. Let’s all be extra kind, patient and forgiving as we navigate social situations together.

11. Keep a mask supply handy

Regardless of whether face coverings are required, you may opt to wear a mask anyway or at least want to have some handy—like for when someone around you coughs (gasp!) or maybe you start feeling feverish in the middle of the day and need to get home without infecting people. We’re likely all coming out of the pandemic a little more germaphobic, so why not be prepared.

12. Symptom check

And finally, if there’s one thing that has come out of the last year, it’s hopefully a shift in the mentality about coming to work sick. If you’re exhibiting symptoms of an illness, please don’t bring it work with you—stay home. Your coworkers will stay healthier, your pets will love to see you again and you can even pull out those beloved sweat pants again.