How to get used to working with people after working from home

According to US Census reports 5.2% of workers- or about 8 million people worked at home in 2017. While many people create a formal workspace no matter where they work, others are a bit less formal while utilizing their home-court advantage.

When you work from home you can show up to the office in leggings and fuzzy slippers or bake brownies in the middle of the day. You can’t do that in an actual office, which can make it hard to head back to a more formal corporate environment after spending time working from the comfort of your home.

So, what happens if you accept a job offer that involves having to wear pants while engaging with human beings on a daily basis? The Cliff notes version is that you have to make a lot of
changes. But it might not scary as you think. After freelancing for 17 years, Content Manager Kate Reilly took a corporate job. “I was hired to essentially create the social media and inbound marketing initiatives for a company that had never done that,” Reilly told Ladders via email. “My manager had kind of gone rogue to hire me – the company had a creative department in another city that she was having a difficult time getting any support from – so when I came on board and had all the skills to do the job – and she, as the Director of PR & Comms in a team of TWO had a ton already on her plate. She was happy to let me just dive in and start running things for social media and inbound marketing. It was almost like I was my own little island, working madly, surrounded by people from other departments.”

While Reilly admits that her experience wasn’t typical, it was a great way for a freelancer to get back into a more traditional work world. Reilly was part of a tiny team and also in charge of her workflow and output. “When I had a concern or an issue or a challenge, I wanted to bounce off her, I would go to her and we would brainstorm it…and then off I'd go back to my little world. As a freelancer, it was honestly perfect – being “in charge” of my own time and work, but getting regular paychecks? It was a dream!”

When Reilly’s manager left after two years, Reilly realized “I was missing out on a big part of being part of a “team." When I had a really big challenge on my plate and ran into a roadblock, I was frustrated. I went to my new manager – my former manager’s boss – and he suggested I reach out to another team member. He said, “She has already done a ton of research and will readily help you.  I reached out to her – and she HELPED, and I was dumbfounded. I know it sounds crazy, but it never occurred to me I didn’t actually have to do everything myself anymore!” And therein lies the rub. Many freelancers are so used to being their own bosses that they miss the fact that working in an office or as part of a team means that you can often rely on the team to help with minor or major issues. Once Reilly realized this, she started reaching out to colleagues “to share information, ask questions, and help them with theirs. I honestly felt like it was a huge step in personal growth for me. Realizing I wasn’t alone and I didn’t have to carry every single thing myself was utterly eye-opening and honestly transformative. I’ve always been introverted, fiercely private, and guarded…and I’m slowly realizing you don’t get a trophy just because you were a martyr and shouldered every single thing on your own.”

While Reilly’s story isn’t the typical one, there are some great takeaways if you’re planning on dipping your toe back into the corporate world after a break:

  • Start small: Choose a manageable work environment with only a few co-workers until you learn how to get back into a day to day routine of dealing with others.
  • Take advantage of the camaraderie and talent pool: It can be daunting to work with a new team. It can also mean that you no longer have to be chief cook and bottle washer.
    Your boss assembled a talented team for a reason.
  • Treat it as a challenge: Not every part of work is fun. Actually, let me rephrase that. They call it work for a reason. Use this opportunity as a way to grow your own skills
    even if they’re soft skills like plays well with others.