If traffic is any indicator, people are beginning to go back to the office. This means certain issues that disappeared during the “work from home” phase of the pandemic may begin to rear their ugly heads again. Believe it or not, this made me think of muffins.
A few weeks ago, in the supermarket, I grabbed a piece of that cellophane-like paper and started to select my usual four muffins—two corn and two chocolate chip. A few weeks earlier, I’d noticed the calorie count was now posted for my beloved muffins. Since I’m aware that muffins aren’t the healthiest breakfast choice, I wasn’t particularly surprised to see that the corn muffins had 440 calories. But, the chocolate chip muffin, whoa! 560 calories!
Needless to say, that calorie count info weighed heavily (see what I did there?) upon me as I approached the muffin counter. So, I did what any rational person would do—I took two corn muffins…then averted my eyes from the calorie sign and took two chocolate chip muffins. Makes perfect sense, right?
Why did I, a completely sane and rational person, do this…and, more importantly, what the heck does it have to do with return-to-the-office problems like inconsiderate or noisy co-workers, adjusting to irritating in-office situations, and the like?
You know that annoying co-worker who is always talking about other co-workers in an unflattering way? Sometimes it’s easiest to ignore him and go about your day…the same way I looked away and pretended the calorie count of my muffins was not an issue. It’s okay once in a while, but, if you do it enough there may be long term negative ramifications. If you are ignoring your annoying co-worker to the point that you are building up resentment, well, I think we can agree that’s not a good way of dealing with the situation—especially if it leads to a blow up at some point down the road.
Suppose you have a co-worker who consistently leaves his dirty lunch dishes in the sink. You complain that it’s disgusting and unhygienic. While that’s true, is it what you should actually be focused on? How about what this habit says about him as a co-worker? Is he lazy and unwilling to carry his share of the load? Can you depend upon him in a pinch? If you are going to bring up his gross habit it seems that, in addition to mentioning that it’s disgusting, you should also tell him that it leads you to question his dependability.
When I shared my muffin story with my business partner, David, he immediately addressed the issue of focus. He wondered why I was focusing on the extra 120 calories in the chocolate chip muffin as opposed to thinking about the fact that even the “lesser evil” corn muffin had 440 calories. In David’s view I’d quietly slipped past the real issue and focused on a much less important one.
Here’s the big payoff. I now eat a half of a muffin and a half of a banana each morning. I adjusted. Adjustments can be made in the workplace, too. Imagine you return to the office and are bothered by noisy coworkers. Some of them are on the phone doing business and they’re just loud. Others are very loud typists, like me. Whatever the source of the noise, it’s annoying. So, I put in noise cancelling headphones. If I’m not on a call I leave them in anyway. Adjustment made. Problem mostly solved. This example is an easy one, but there are often other small adjustments that can be made to mitigate other workplace problems, too.
As you head back to the office, even in a hybrid work environment, old issues will return. As you reacclimate, keep these straightforward lessons in mind, to ease the transition. First, dissect what you’re avoiding. Is it a healthy avoidance that allows you to work more comfortably, or is it something you’re suppressing that might eventually blow up? If the latter, then hit it head on sooner rather than later. Deal with it now. Second, when you’re faced with a day-to-day annoyance, take a minute to think about your focus. Are you missing the proverbial forest for the trees? Could you possibly take a step back to discover the bigger-picture issue that needs to be addressed? Finally, if you’re noticing these or similar issues that are complicating your back-to-the-office transition, look for adjustments that can make your return less stressful, even if they don’t directly “solve” the problem.
This thought process helped me to continue to enjoy eating a muffin for breakfast, without the associated guilt/stress. Try applying these principles to your professional life if you’re less than happy switching back to in-person work. If you need help with this readjustment, or even if you’re thinking of cutting out your muffin habit entirely, but not sure how to start, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll be happy to eat half!SHARE: