First day back

Your alarm goes off at 6am, breakfast is a stand-up affair and the car windscreen is still frozen. Ah, the joys of the daily grind.

Of course for those going back to work after time away, be it for family reasons, illness, injury or any other period of unemployment, the grind is all a bit of a novelty – for the first day at least.

But it’s that first day that really counts.

Whether you’re starting a new job or going back to the same role or past employer, making your first day back a success is key to re-entering the workforce on a positive note.

Here are some tips on surviving, and thriving, in the workplace when everything seems new again.

Go back to basics

It may seem blatantly obvious, but in the interest of making a relaxed, positive start to your new or old job, be organised and arrive on time. Do this by:

  • Going to bed early, and getting up early. Nothing says bad day like a morning panic.
  • Going over your commute before the first day to reduce the danger of missing a bus or train, or getting stuck in traffic.
  • Preparing your outfit, tools or other necessary items like devices and chargers the night before.
  • Arrive at work early so you can find a park, the door (you may need a security card to enter, which nobody thought to issue to you...), the office and the boss without rushing.
  • Take everything one step, task and email at a time, from getting to work to doing the work. You might need time to familiarise yourself with the work environment and the pace.
  • Ask for help. You can’t be expected to know everything on the first day.
  • Don’t expect too much from yourself on day one. Consider it a taster of things to come and build on the experience for day two, day three, day...

Find your feet

Even if you’re returning to the same role, or similar job, to what you had before, it may take a bit of time to find your feet. You may slip back into the fold like you’d never left, or you may feel a bit lost. Here are some ways to smooth the transition into your job:

  • Talk to your boss and your colleagues about their, and your, expectations on the first day. Make it clear you need time to adjust if this is the case.
  • Have the reasons for your absence clear in your head so you can talk about these easily if people ask. This is especially important if the reason you left work for a while is a sensitive topic for you.
  • Remember that everyone has first-day jitters. Just because you’ve been in employment before, even if you’ve returned to the same job, doesn’t mean you aren’t allowed to feel nervous.

Some things change, some remain the same...

While you were away, even if it was just a few weeks, it’s likely that a few things have changed. Take this on board before your first day so you aren’t shocked at the realisation that you may have to adopt some new skills – even ones as simple as learning to operate the flash new coffee machine.

  • If you’re going back to your old job, you may find new software, new people and a new way of doing certain things.
  • In a new job within your industry, certain standards or systems may have moved on, such as health and safety rules.
  • Communicate clearly to your boss or colleagues what you are and are not familiar with so relevant training, or just a chat about how things work now, can be arranged.
  • Prepare to be flexible and open to new ideas and learning opportunities. Taking on board new skills or rules can seem daunting when you’re already nervous about returning to work, so don’t head in with a set idea of how your day will look.
  • You, too, may have changed while you were away for health or other reasons. Keep this in mind if you take a little bit longer to complete tasks, wrap your head around complicated issues or just operate with less speed than before. As they say, good things take time.