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Tips for boundary-setting as you return to the office

How to stay sane if you’re being asked back to the office
Tips for boundary-setting as you return to the office
Photo by Nastuh Abootalebi / Unsplash

Sustain issue #74 (Get Sustain in your inbox next Thursday)

This week, many companies began to implement their Return to Office (RTO) policies as we ease out of the northern hemisphere’s summer and school goes back into session.

And the irony isn’t lost on me about how these RTO mandates follow Labor Day, a holiday meant to honor the hard work of the nation’s employees. Nothing says thanks for the hard work like uprooting people and their established norms over several years.

The fun’s over. It’s back to normal 🥴

If it’s been a minute since you’ve worked in an office regularly, I’m sharing some tips you can use as you dust the cobwebs off.

This is also a great moment to reset your working norms in the office so you continue to care for yourself. You don’t have to fall back into your same ol’ office ways.  


Remember in-office work has changed

Focused work doesn't happen at the office much any longer (did it ever really in an open floor plan?). Office time is now all about connecting with your colleagues at a more human level. Plan your day and week accordingly.

Go in with a plan

Just like any other day, you should follow the 3x3 Rule of Work and have three top priorities for the day planned out. But note that priorities when you’re in the office may be different. It may include more human connection and group discussions than at home.

Remove distractions

If you’re in an open office environment, you may have to leave your desk and hide to actually get work done if people are chatting or taking meetings around you. Additionally, leave your phone either in your bag or pocket so there’s not another screen pinging you.

Take breaks

Lean into the increased human connection side of in-office work. Be intentional about scheduling time to eat lunch together with co-workers instead of shoveling food into your mouth seated at your desk. And think about taking a walk after lunch or when you hit an afternoon block.

Leave when you’re done

When you’ve completed your three priorities for the day, go home. Even if you’re done at 3:30, there’s no reason to fake work just to make it to an arbitrary end of day time since you’re aligned with your boss that it’s about outcomes, not hours. And when you leave, just say bye. You don’t need to flex on your co-workers about being online later.

Express your needs

If your company is worth staying at, they will be hyper-attentive in these first few weeks of significant transition. They should be listening at a company level and you should have an active conversation with your boss. Express if RTO is impacting your mental health or ability to perform your job at a high level. It’s bad for you and bad for your company if either of these indicators dip.


Ready to downsize your relationship with work and quit burnout?

Hi, I'm Grant Gurewitz. I'm on a mission to eliminate burnout at work. I've been in tech for 10 years (ex-Zillow, current: Qualtrics) and suffered deep burnout and came back from it even though I never found a playbook for doing so. So, I'm writing it myself.

✉️ Want my top tips? I share my full step-by-step playbook in How I Quit Burnout, my premium newsletter. Get the next one delivered straight to your inbox >

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