How to reunite with coworkers you haven\’t seen since before COVID

With January 2022 fast approaching, the wait to return to the office for many employees may be coming to end. More companies are announcing official return to office dates and plans on getting people back together in person. According to one study, 94% of employees want to return to the office. While we have enjoyed the flexibility of working from home, the majority miss the face to face, everyday in-person interactions. And simply, many of us miss our coworkers.

And over the last 19 months, some of us have been working remotely alone, while others have had roommates. Many working parents have been trapped with their young children and partner in small quarters. As a whole, all of us have been under a lot of pressure, creating our own rules, hacks, and ways of integrating our personal and work lives. As we now head toward, what I would like to deem “the Great Reunion,” or a period of connecting with old coworkers and meeting new ones, we must acknowledge that we have to remember how to be great office mates.

Here are five things we must remind ourselves of as we embrace our coworkers and show up as great office mates.

Show consideration in shared spaces

You wouldn’t leave dirty dishes in your kitchen sink for two days. You didn’t refill the coffee pot, you left snack wrappers on your desk, and you left your hoodie on the floor. That won’t be well received by your coworkers. Part of being a great office mate means being considerate of how you use shared space.

Be mindful of your own belongings and respectful of common spaces. This includes friendly reminders on kitchen and bathroom etiquette as well as keeping your desk area tidy. If you have an unassigned seat, and rotate where you sit, ensure not to leave items behind like water bottles, shoes and hoodies, and empty lunch tupperware. Utilize designated locker and storage areas and minimize what you bring into the office. Leave spaces how you would want to find them; no crumbs left behind, putting things back where you found them and please, don’t hoard all the free company snacks.

Remember to mute yourself

Taking conference calls from our bedrooms will be very different then taking calls right next to our coworkers at an open table. In addition to using headphones, monitor how loud you speak. Companies should also have plenty of extra headphones on hand and offer guidelines on when you can book conference rooms vs. when you should take calls from your desk. Be a great office mate and ensure mother’s rooms and meditation and prayer spaces are not being misused for calls or as private offices.

Finally, as we teach our children, let’s remember to mind our manners. Muting ourselves also refers to how we eat in the presence of others. Avoid slurping, burping and chomping loudly. Your coworkers will thank you for it.

Establish new routines with coworkers

Many of us will be reuniting with coworkers while also meeting some people for the first time. Establish new routines with each other. One on one meetings can now be done while getting coffee or taking a walk. You may decide to grab breakfast twice a week or organize a weekly happy hour. At my company Carta, our CEO will be encouraging colleagues to have lunch together on designated Fridays as we return to offices, reimbursing lunch bills.

Remember to balance the time you spend with coworkers and allow yourself the time and space to recharge. Utilize quiet spaces for independent working and mediation and prayer spaces for moments to be still. Create team recharge moments during the day where you and your coworkers have collective downtime and moments of quiet.

Be kind and patient

 Working together again in the same space will be an adjustment. Some of us will dive back easily into everyday social interactions. For others, it will take some time. Small talk while grabbing water or walking down the hall might not come as easily as it once did. Let’s show each other kindness and patience as we make our way through the Great Reunion so we can show up as great office mates for each other.

Mita Mallick is a diversity and inclusion leader. Currently, she is the head of inclusion, equity, and impact at Carta.