Worm farms, sea monkeys, flexible working arrangements and clear communication are helping Bay employees transition back to office work.
Holland Beckett Law Tauranga practice manager Sharline Fitzgerald said working from home took a toll on local staff.
All but two staff worked from home during the red setting and they all did their best and didn't seem to be overtired from lockdowns, she said.
"We had the attitude of, 'We're all in this together and we can do it.'"
With the change to the orange setting, Fitzgerald said the office was a "more vibrant" and seemed to be getting "back to normal" with most people back.
"People really appreciate 'normal life' more now and don't take it for granted anymore."
Fitzgerald said taking a staged approach to returning to the office and strict guidelines around Covid-19 symptoms "empowered" employees to feel comfortable and confident.
People came back when they were ready; those who were more exposed to health issues could stay away longer and those who came back had enough space for social distancing.
While they looked forward to morning tea celebrations and bringing office traditions back, being able to talk to people was "the most important thing".
Rotorua-based Salt+Tonic app developers director Matt Browning said the team was in a "good mood" and they were doing more to bring back the community feel of working in the office.
Team building initiatives included raising sea monkeys, starting a worm farm, lunchtime show-and-tell, and personal peer review sessions for praise and feedback which they might not get at home.
The company offered colleagues incentives to support local businesses; a fruit box from Brown Owl Organics, milk from Volcanic Creamery, and coffee from Mourea Coffee.
Salt+Tonic employee Josh Dillner might miss being able to roll out of bed to get to work in the morning, but believed being around colleagues and immersed in the office culture was better for getting work done.
The Rotorua father of two and app developer said it was easier to focus on work when his children weren't hopping on to his lap and his cat wasn't climbing onto his shoulders.
Zoom also wasn't the same as seeing people in person.
• Is mental health a 'shadow pandemic'? What the political parties say, and how they plan to fix it
• Feeling fatigued? Here's how Bay bosses are managing stress before it boils over
• 'I felt like I was suffocating': Teen's inspiring story after post-lockdown blues
Tauranga Business Chamber spokeswoman Laura Boucher said while she and her team all enjoy the flexibility of working from home, connectivity was a common challenge.
"We're constantly out and about. If anything, one of the common challenges is ensuring there is no 'fomo' from not being able to be in the office.
Chambers moved to Teams in 2020 which was useful to ensure the connection remains, not just for work-related chat but the daily "water cooler" type conversations.
Boucher said it was important for their small and tight team to have easy and open lines of communication to support each other through times of change.
How colleagues can support each other in the return to the office?
Q&A with Umbrella Wellbeing Ltd Tauranga-based facilitator and registered clinical psychologist Bronwyn Moth
• What are the common challenges businesses can face in the transition back to office-based work?
There will be more stress as staff are being asked to cope with more unpredictability.
Some people have thrived working remotely while others have found it stressful and isolating.
Most research suggests organisations avoid the "one size fits all" model of working.
New research suggests that in New Zealand, hybrid workers are the happiest employees.
• What are some signs of unnecessary stress colleagues can look out for in each other?
Warning signs of stress fall into one of four areas: thinking, emotions or feelings, physical signs and behaviour.
It is helpful to look for changes over time.
For example, if your colleague was usually talkative in online meetings and now says little or has stopped prioritising their lunchtime walk, these may be signs of stress.
Negative thoughts, struggling to concentrate, irritability, nausea and tension in different parts of the body are some other signs of increased stress.
• What are some ways work teammates can support each other at the office?
The first thing to do is to check in with them in a private space.
You might ask how they are or say you have noticed some things and are worried for them.
Simple things colleagues can do to are to praise each other, bring in a treat to share, or take time away from your workstation to say, "Hi".