Shaky Wi-Fi, a stained blazer, forgotten lunch: Going back to the office was harder than expected

Getting ready for the office — and spending the day there — feels like a monumental task.

USA TODAY reporter Morgan Hines' desk.
Morgan Hines
USA TODAY
  • I thought I was ready to start commuting again. I wasn't.
  • Spills, forgotten lunches and loud vegetables derailed my day.
  • The new commute left me more exhausted than I could have imagined.

Lipgloss, lipstick, laptop, pens, chargers, keys, book, work badge, gum, glasses, notebook, sweater, veggies, water and half-shaken protein shake in a shaker bottle. 

My checklist was complete, my hair and makeup were done and I was dressed in a carefully-selected blazer and ripped mom jeans. I felt ready to go back to the office for a full workday after more than two years away during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Or so I thought.

A bit stressed but pleased that I hadn't forgotten anything, I took a sip of my shake and headed out.

Walking down the street with Majid Jordan's "Waves of Blue," pumping through my AirPods, I felt primed to be in a public setting for work. 

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Then I looked down. 

There it was: liquid chocolate all over my brand-spanking-new, BB Dakota by Steve Madden ice blue blazer. I wasn't even sure when I spilled it.

Big ugh.

I rushed back to my apartment and threw it in the wash with stain remover.

The day didn't get much smoother after that. When I eventually made it to the office, I realized I would have to buy lunch, which I hadn't packed. Then I kept getting booted off Wi-Fi. And I cringed at the loud crunch of my raw cucumbers in the open-office setting.

With only 30 seconds before a Zoom call, I hustled to find an empty conference room. My shoes click-clacked on the floor. I forgot all the little noises that seem so much louder in a public space than in my apartment. 

Back at my desk, I decided to listen to music while working on a story about getting married on a cruise ship. But Spotify outpaced my AirPods and a jolt of music from my "Spring Fever 2022" playlist pierced the quiet that had only been occupied by white noise from the office air conditioning.

Reporter Morgan Hines' empty protein shake bottle.

By the time I made it home after 6 p.m., I was exhausted. I laid on the couch, too beat to even go for a run.

Pre-pandemic, I woke up almost every weekday at 5:45 a.m. for a spin at New York Sports Club. The gym was 10 blocks from a previous apartment. After class, I'd walk home, shower, dress and get myself ready for work. Then, I'd work from the office all day before making it out to dinner with friends.

At the time, it felt like a piece of cake.

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Now? Getting ready for the office –and spending the day there –feels like a monumental task.

When my company went remote and my gym closed –as many did –in March 2020, my routine drastically changed. And I slowed down. I've spent the last two years of work waking up later –and usually clad in my workout clothes without makeup. Trying to jump back into my old ways, I've had no idea how to get myself in order.

Honestly, it's amazing how I un-adapted to my on-the-go schedule. 

It will get easier, as routine so often does, but in the meantime, I'm sure I'll continue to fumble and leave in my wake a tornado of potential outfits strewn across my apartment as I re-adapt to in-office life.

USA TODAY reporter Morgan Hines has found herself leaving behind the result of a tornado of outfit options on her bed before leaving for the office after two years of working from home.

With so many other people going through reentry to office life, USA TODAY asked an expert what their top tips are for returning to offices.

Going back to the office? Here's how an expert recommends preparing

Employees shouldn't be afraid to express concerns and suggestions to help make everyone's return to the office safe and effective, said Rebecca Henderson, CEO of Randstad Global Businesses and executive board member, who has nearly 20 years of "talent solutions leadership" experience, according to her LinkedIn.

"As we all transition to more days in the workplace after such a long period of isolation, it’s important you take time to get comfortable with your employers’ mandates," Henderson said.

Henderson had a few tips for a smoother reentry.

  • Ask your employer for a "transition period" of hybrid days before returning full time to allow space to adjust to managing your schedule.
  • Align your hybrid work schedule with your colleagues' who you need to connect with most.
  • Continue to practice hygiene – even as COVID-19 restrictions drop.

You can follow USA TODAY reporter Morgan Hines on Twitter @MorganEmHines and subscribe to our free Daily Money newsletter here for personal finance tips and business news every Monday through Friday morning.