It’s natural to be apprehensive about going back to the office.  You may feel tense interacting in-person after so long away, and there may be new people to meet face-to-face for the first time.   There are also practical issues:

  • travel arrangements, hours of work, and looking after children and pets;
  • how to behave in the office, how to run meetings or share resources, what levels of physical contact and social interaction are expected;
  • how you manage your feelings about all of this and deal with any stress you may feel. 

Here I cover the third point: how you can help yourself to settle back in, by being aware of how to manage your own drives and stressors when you communicate.

When we interact with others, we naturally fall into one of four styles.  Each of the four styles has specific things to achieve when communicating with others and specific things that cause stress.

The four types of people are:

The NAVIGATOR, who likes to think things through and plan to avoid risk.  They get stressed when they don’t know what’s going to happen. 

  • Returning to the office amidst uncertainty about how people will behave and about the rules and guidelines is likely to cause them stress. 

The MOBILISER, who likes to make quick decisions and galvanise others to action.  They get stressed when things are not being accomplished. 

  • Getting things done and making decisions with other people, is likely to take longer and be more complicated.

The ENERGISER, who likes to pull people together and get them to collaborate for buy-in.  They get stressed when other people don’t want to participate or they can’t get involved themselves. 

  • Getting involvement from others is likely to be more difficult, with some people still working from home or flexibly.

The SYNTHESISER, who likes to gather lots of information and consult others. They get stressed when they don’t have enough input or enough time to get the best possible result. 

  • Finding opportunities to share ideas and gather input may not be easy if people are reluctant to mix. 

Here’s what you can do to help yourself and your colleagues:

Style Stressor They may become… How you can help them How you can help yourself
NAVIGATOR Not knowing what’s going to happen Tense and distant. Establish clear rules and expectations for behaviour and practices in the office.   Speak up at the right time.  Ask for what you need. Find ways to relax and get time to yourself.
MOBILISER Nothing being accomplished Impatient and demanding. Reduce time spent in meetings and clarify who will make specific decisions.    Let other people take responsibility sometimes. Use mindfulness techniques. Slow down and make time to chat.  
ENERGISER Not being involved or others not participating Unfocused and frantic. Create opportunities for team conversations and water-cooler chats – even virtual ones.   Don’t expect as much enthusiasm from others. Find someone to act as a sounding board. Calm down and listen to others.  
SYNTHESISER Not having enough input, or time to get the best result Indecisive and unassertive Give them time and space in meetings to say what they need from others.   Recognise that “good enough” is ok. Summarise key points. Be more expressive in voice and gestures.  

Being aware of your own style – how you come across to other people, what drives your behaviour and what stresses you – can be an enormous help in adapting to life back in the office.  See How to Get On with Anyone to discover more about yourself and your colleagues!