Regaining Your Productivity in a Post-Pandemic World

After a year of working pantsless in their living rooms, millions of Americans are getting sent back to work. Some are joyous. Some are flat-out refusing. Still others are experiencing an unprecedented crisis in productivity.

How can you maintain your focus when so much is going on around you?

Let’s Face Facts: The Office is a Time Suck

Why is returning to the office so miserable?

Well, it’s a time suck. Not only is the COVID-19 pandemic far from over, but now we have to take the kids to school again, shop for our own groceries again, and generally start living life again. All while also managing a commute.

People are only productive for about four hours a day. But people are in the office eight hours a day — or nine, or ten. That’s a lot of time that you have to use pretending to do something that you physically, emotionally, and mentally can’t focus on.

You might think you’d be more productive in the office. But it’s really not surprising if you’re not. Even if you were surrounded by your family, pets, and other distractions at home, you could work when you were focused and focus on other things when you weren’t.

In the office, there’s mental fatigue associated with looking busy —all the time.

But it’s not all negative. COVID did create some lasting changes to many company environments, such as increased automation and digitization. While you might not like working in the office now that you had a taste of the suite-life, it may still be better than it was before.

Make Your Office a Little More Like Home

What was it that you loved when you were working from home? Well, besides being able to avoid your manager’s meetings.

A lot of it comes down to comfort. Working from home might have just highlighted how uncomfortable and impersonal your office really is.


  • Bringing in some plants.
  • Using bright decor to boost natural lighting.
  • Switching to warm lighting rather than cool, office lighting.
  • Making sure your chair and desk are ergonomically friendly.
  • Putting on some “mood music” (headphones, of course).

A lot of the creature comforts that we have at home aren’t necessarily unavailable at the office. And let’s face it, employers are going to have to be a little more flexible now — you can’t unring that bell.

Switch Up Your Working Space

Sometimes it’s not so much about the environment as it is about environmental change.

When you were working from home, did you work in your bedroom, kitchen, and living room? Did you sometimes work at a coffee shop or park?

Changing your environment can deliver a massive boost to productivity. At a minimum, it’s better than staying in the office all day.

If you can, consider taking advantage of company flex-space, outdoor working areas, or other shared offices. By changing up your environment, you may also change up how you feel.

Take Care of the “Criticals”

During the pandemic, a lot of us realized that there are critical aspects of our work-life balance that we were missing. It could be that we weren’t spending enough time with our kids, that we wanted to spend more time outdoors, or that we didn’t even have time for our health.

Make a list of the things that are critical to you. It’s possible that you may need to change positions, employers, or even careers to meet these needs — but now is the time.

According to CNBC, there are 1 million more jobs to be filled right now than there are people looking for work.

Sure, a lot of productivity issues can be countered on your side. But you also need to ask yourself: is this really where I want to be?

Time for an Efficiency Audit

How much of your work really has to be done? How much of your work is redundant? Coming back to the office is the perfect time for you to reevaluate your processes and see how much of it you can automate or simplify.

Look, I’m not saying you should automate your job away. But. Maybe you could try.

Make More Out of Your “You” Time

No more working late unpaid!

When you spend more time on self-care, you’re more productive at work. You might find that a little self-care goes a long way — stop working late unpaid, and you might stop needing to work unpaid.

If your office environment doesn’t understand that (“clearly you’re not dedicated to the team”), they’re going to have to learn to understand that. Employees simply aren’t standing for the same work environments they did pre-pandemic.

That also means: Take your breaks!

Looking to the Future

The “office” isn’t an unsolvable problem; we just need to work together. Some countries are experimenting with a 4-day workweek. Some companies are experimenting with just letting their workers stay at home. Until employees refuse to do jobs that they are not happy or productive in, nothing changes.

Some small steps you can take:

  • Try to organize at least one “at-home” workday a week; it may be an easier sell than full-time at-home work. Benefits for your employer: less overhead.
  • Tout the benefits of “milestones” rather than “hourly” work. There’s a great deal of information about why milestone labor is better than counting the clock.
  • Look for critical benefits, such as in-office childcare and even the ability to bring in your pets. These are life improvements that can make being at the office that much better.
  • Join or form a union. Collective bargaining means collective power.
  • Touch some grass. Discuss the positives of outdoor working with your supervisors and consider making an outdoor working space.
  • Reassess your career and your work-life balance. Now is the best time to do so.




Jenna Inouye is a freelance writer and ghostwriter specializing in technology, finance, and marketing. Bylines in Looper, SVG, The Gamer, and Grunge.

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Jenna Inouye

Jenna Inouye

Jenna Inouye is a freelance writer and ghostwriter specializing in technology, finance, and marketing. Bylines in Looper, SVG, The Gamer, and Grunge.

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