Man with a bicycle walking into an office

Remember leaving the office in March 2020? It looked like we’d be back in a matter of weeks. Now, over a year later, as companies begin asking employees to return to the office, there is a mix of emotions about making the transition and adjusting to a new routine.  If you’re a bit nervous, you’re not alone, according to a recent Ally survey.

While half the individuals we surveyed are happy about returning to the office, only 25 percent are excited about it. Meanwhile, roughly a third are feeling disappointed, nervous or overwhelmed. For the last group, the idea of being back in an office five days a week feels like the “Sunday Scaries” with a vengeance.

Believe it or not that’s natural and getting back into a new work/life balance is likely to take time, patience and money, according to our research. To not only survive but thrive, consider a personal innovation plan. It will give you resiliency with the transition and its shifting timeline, and help you leverage the change as a growth opportunity.

Personal Innovation Plan: 5 Tips to Survive and Thrive When You Head Back to the Office:

Think creatively

Use this opportunity to rethink how you do things. Exercise and commuting were cited as big concerns among the 62% of surveyed individuals who expect a negative impact on their work/life balance. If that’s you, consider something as small as biking to work instead of driving or negotiating a new hybrid work structure. Also, look for the silver lining – 36% of those who have returned to the office report that life is the same as pre-pandemic. That’s good news for those who like the status quo, but if you’ve changed your life for the better, find a way to make those positive habits stick.

Claim control

Anticipate and plan for an impact on your finances. Between commuting costs, new wardrobe purchases and that morning latte, almost 25% of those surveyed said they expect monthly expenses to increase by at least $1,000. Try not to be among the third who believe they’ll have to pull from savings and start budgeting now. Anticipatec back to office expenses. 50% of those who transitioned to remote/hybrid expect their expenses to increase as a result of returning to the office. In what areas? 85% Gas, 72% food, 49% clothing, 49% personal care, 29% public transportation. 32% expect to dip into savings to help cover back to office costs. By how much? This group expects their spending to increase: 76% say less than $1K, 22% say greater than 1K.

Take this quiz to find the right budgeting fit for you.

 Take care of yourself

Make time for your wants and needs. Among the individuals surveyed, nearly half expect returning to the office will negatively impact their morning routines and hobbies. So start now and set aside sacred, uninterrupted time for your hobby each week to bring you joy. If possible, give yourself a buffer by budgeting for some help by hiring a cleaning service or ordering prepared meals a few times a week.

Be patient

Slow down and focus on one thing at a time. Everyone is experiencing the challenge of life in today’s quasi-COVID world.  The best thing you can do once your new in-office routine begins is assess your schedule from sun up to sun down. Then take out two to three things that take time but deliver zero joy. Repeat this process monthly.

 Plan & flex

Give yourself grace. The smartest, most organized people make mistakes. You’re one of them. How do I know that? Because you’re creating an innovation plan – a plan to make improvements in your sphere of influence – and innovation is the key for making progress.  Just start and make adjustments as you go.

As life changes, stay on top of your budget and financial goals with the Ally Savings Goal Calculator.

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Speech bubble icon next to text "Expert Take"  

Headshot of Ally's senior director on the Strategy and Innovation team Emily Shallal is the executive director of consumer strategy and innovation at Ally. She is constantly seeking out ways to improve our customer’s financial savvy by understanding consumer trends and habits.