While most businesses resumed office life pre-Christmas 2020, some states – like Victoria – stuck to 25% capacity over December and 50% in January for public service employees. Now here we are in February, and some, if not all offices are back in full swing across the country. But what exactly does full swing look like in 2021?


Data out of the UK, US and even locally here in Australia has shown that the traditional corporate office looks very different this year. Employers are continuing to offer a flexible approach in 2021 and this is certainly a trend we’re seeing through our commercial leasing business and across our 300 offices nationwide. Global tech giants like Microsoft, Twitter, Shopify, Facebook and many more have opted to have employees continue to work from home until at least June this year, if not permanently.


The world hit pause in 2020, and as a result, we all adjusted (in what perhaps now feels like an instant) to a new way of life. We continue to adapt as we respond to new information, and it’s likely this need to quickly alter our paths will persist throughout 2021. So, whether this February marks a return to the office permanently, in a hybrid capacity, or you’re just getting back into your groove post-Christmas break, First National has put together this guide to help you ease into your next new normal.


Safety first


Despite the rate of COVID transmission generally moderating in most Australian cities, remaining vigilant and taking extra health and safety precautions will allow us to maintain our current freedoms. Here’s what you’re likely to see in and around the office:


  • Keep your distanceGovernment recommendations are for 5 metre physical distancing in order to reduce the spread of viruses like COVID-19. It’s likely to mean an office re-jig and capacity limits in common areas like lunchrooms, meeting rooms, elevators, and any other communal spaces.
  • Meetings will look different – non-essential meetings are likely to get scrapped while meetings or training sessions are taken virtually where possible. We’re all craving some face-to-face time, so when necessary, keep these catch ups short with numbers limited.
  • Use those sick days – no longer is there an expectation to come into the office if you ‘just have a cold’. Now that we know we can all function from home, if you have any symptoms of sickness, stay home until you’re fully recovered. Your colleagues will thank you; you’ll have time to recuperate, and you’ll avoid those ‘what are you doing here’ glares!
  • Office signage to promote health standards – clear signage will need to be placed around the office with social distancing and correct handwashing and hygiene reminders. A quick visit to Safe Work Australia will stock you up on all the resources and tools necessary to keep teams and workplaces safe and compliant.


With the health and safety essentials out of the way, we’ll move on to some personal tips to help ease you into 2021…


Keep anxiety in check

Having anxiety about returning to work, post-holidays, is completely normal and even more so after an extended period of working from home. Acknowledging these anxious feelings will help you keep them in check. Start by thinking about what factors are making you feel anxious and formulate a plan to tackle them. If, for example, heading back to a stressful commute is weighing on your mind, think of ways you can lessen the pain – can you find a great podcast to listen to on your commute? Removing anxiety is all about anticipating scenarios and coming up with techniques to turn them into positives or at least bearable situations. For everything else, just breathe!


Six Tips on Returning to Work Commute Podcast


Get motivated

There’s nothing more motivating than setting goals at the beginning of the year to keep you trucking along with a clear purpose. From career goals to financial or personal, make sure you write them down to keep yourself accountable. Once you’ve settled on your goals for the year ahead, make them S.M.A.R.T – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely. Starting with specific goals makes all the difference, so instead of making a pay rise your goal, fine tune it to something more like a salary increase of $10,000. From here, it’s easy to put the rest of the S.M.A.R.T steps into practice. Check out this resource for more tips on getting started with S.M.A.R.T goals.


Be balanced

If dividing your working hours between home and the office is an option, make the most of it! Flexible working arrangements have huge lifestyle benefits and remove so many stressors from our everyday life. Plan your week around your workload and you’ll find work/life balance like never before. For example, schedule work around family commitments like school pick-ups, work from home when you have a task that requires uninterrupted concentration (and pop on that load of washing while you’re having a break), and make sure you’re in the office for when collaboration is crucial. Having this flexibility will maximise your productivity and allow you to achieve a balanced lifestyle. Remember, we still don’t have total control over COVID-19, so adopting and maintaining a flexible and agile mindset is key to avoiding any disappointment as the year progresses.


Six Tips on Returning to Work Work Life Balance


Get social

Make the most of our current ability to socialise and interact with workmates and colleagues. It’s been a long stint of relative isolation for many of us, and human interaction is good for the soul. So, if you get an invite to after work drinks this Friday, head along and see what happens. You might just realise you’ve been missing out on some fun!


Be kind

Keep in mind that you never know what is going on in someone else’s life, so be kind. 2020 was a challenging year for many – from an emotional and financial perspective – so small gestures of kindness can be all it takes to make someone’s day. The universe has a wonderful way of giving back what you put in, so instead of strolling past your colleagues in the corridors head down, start the day with a warm hello. Checking in with workmates (if you’re still working from home) provides that much needed social connection, so schedule it in and feel the benefits.


Six Tips on Returning to Work Friendly Colleagues


Embracing the year ahead…

Our next new normal is continuously evolving and may not be the same for all industries or individuals. As some of us return to physical offices, keep an open mind, re-evaluate, and re-invigorate as the year progresses. If you’ve got a flexible working arrangement, embrace the benefits, and remain focussed on your goals. Above all, keeping safe and not becoming complacent is key.


We wish you every success in your business and career endeavours throughout the year ahead, and remember, if you need any assistance with commercial office leasing, retail sales or your next property purchase, call our First National Commercial Real Estate team for advice and support.



The following advice is of a general nature only and intended as a broad guide. The advice should not be regarded as legal, financial or real estate advice. You should make your own inquiries and obtain independent professional advice tailored to your specific circumstances before making any legal, financial or real estate decisions. Click here for full Terms of Use.