These 11 Items Have Made My Transition Back to Working in an Office So Much Smoother

Remember the real world?

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The false alarms of returning to the office were among the only constants of my last two years living in the COVID-19 era. In unprecedented circumstances, a large amount of the population of non-essential workers became remote employees, many of whom were told there would be an eventual return to a somewhat traditional setup. But in my situation, any set date for this return was endlessly pushed back as the pandemic stretched on, so it evaded having any sense of realness.

While the pandemic hasn't ended, a new normal seems to be taking shape, and in my case, return-to-office plans finally materialized for the first time in years. My life has shifted so much (and my brain has been so rewired) that going to work isn't the same mundane operation it once was. As I've started making my way into the office weekly, I realized that there are a few tangible items I'm relying on to make the transition smoother, ease my anxieties, and provide both physical and emotional comfort.

Although I have now gone into my office over a dozen times, most individual excursions still make me feel like a fish out of water. These are the 11 things that are helping me remember how to be a member of society again.

The Bag: Modern Picnic Tote

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First up is a reliable work bag to carry everything. My daily carryall is a vegan leather tote from Modern Picnic that comes with an insulated snap-in pouch to hold lunch. (I don't currently use this part, but I will once I get back into the groove of packing lunch.) I love this sturdy Modern Picnic bag because it's something I would wear regularly for the style — and not simply because it can fit every single thing on this list, plus my laptop.

In My Bag

In my bag, you will find a few no-brainer items, like a book to read on my commute (currently The Nineties: A Book by Chuck Klosterman), a Cadence Capsule that houses ibuprofen and my other medications, Evolvetogether's Hand Sanitizer, and a tube of Lanolips 101 Ointment to treat my lips, dry cuticles, etc. Then there are a few items that warrant some explanation: the Jillian Dempsey Spot Stick, a notebook, and an SPF face mist.

With the return to the office comes the return of spontaneous after-work socializing, which now strikes fear into my heart. I have gone home from the office several times because I just felt like my skin looked too busted to be seen. Carrying an entire makeup bag is no fun, even for a beauty writer, so this little Chapstick-sized concealer has really helped me be more open to post-work plans. The notebook's purpose is to allow me to write down anything and everything that pops into my head during my commute — because, for me, bus thoughts are better than shower thoughts. And while I wear SPF every day, my skin is so much more exposed to the sun when I leave the house, so I keep an easy spray-on SPF mist in my bag. Between the bus windows and the huge windows in my office, the sun is always gleaming through, so reapplying SPF is imperative (plus, this form of it won't mess up my makeup).

At My Desk

The third category is things that live at my desk. The most important one, to me, is an office sweater. I found this out years ago, but if you're a woman who is always cold at work, it turns out it could very well be because the standard temperature is set in accordance with men's bodies. Because of this, I recommend having a sweater that does not leave the office. I prefer something made with cozy fleece and that I can wrap around myself, so this $21 option from Target is perfect.

The air at the office is much dryer than at my apartment, and I've noticed that my skin feels even more sensitive. I have been keeping this Balancing Face Mist, which was gifted to me by Byoma, at my desk to spritz throughout the day; it's an easy way to keep my skin happy and awake. I also keep a refillable water bottle at my desk for hydration, plus a pair of Bluetooth headphones that are great for blocking out office chatter or other distracting noises.

During my transition back to an IRL workplace, these items have been imperative to my emotional wellbeing and ability to be a functioning career woman.

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