The September State of Mind: How the nostalgic ‘Back to School’ mentality influences the adult workplace

Written by Becky Muldoon

As pencil cases are packed with brand new sharpies and name labels are stuck into uniforms (sewn in if you’re old skool or you’ve got Grandma on hand!), September ushers in a wave of nostalgia for many of us. It’s a time etched in our memories as the season of new beginnings, fresh notebooks, and the anticipation of what the school year might bring. But interestingly, this ‘back to school’ mentality doesn’t seem to vanish with age; instead, it often filters into the workplace, influencing our attitudes and behaviours, regardless of age.

Here are some of my favourite September ‘back to school’ workplace practices that I am certain will be with me for many years to come.

 

1. A time to embrace change

September symbolises change – the season, the school year – and change is a fundamental part of working life. But it can come with a little angst and anticipation, which, in the workplace can actually sometimes be just what we need to push ourselves outside our comfort zones and build resilience. Whether starting a new job, embarking on a project, or simply seeking personal growth, adopting a ‘back to school’ mindset can be incredibly beneficial and surprisingly emboldening.

 

2. Set new goals

My new term books began life with my very best handwriting. It somehow made me feel like, that year, I meant business. Even if I didn’t know it, I was laying mental foundations and setting goals for myself. A goal to make the netball team? To get a part in the school play? In PR, goals at this time of year will always be around a big push to the end of the year. A time to revisit those all-important KPIs… take a look over the shoulder at what the competition is up to… and a make a plan to ensure that, come Christmas, coverage is dancing off the pages.

 

3. A desire to learn

Education doesn’t end with School or University, and neither should our desire to learn. At 41 my desire to learn is probably greater than it was in secondary school, because now I get to make my own choices on what learning looks like. What I love to do at this time of year is plan the best books to read in the evening, the best podcasts for my daily bus commute (because it’s far too cold for the bike!), and perhaps steal 5-minutes of my teenagers’ The Week so I can catch up on what’s going on around me. Work is no different. I want to know my clients’ industries and trends and I enjoy taking the time to do that. New legislation often presents itself in the new year and I want to know what I can expect for my clients.

 

4. Record of Achievement

Commendations… Team Captain… Duke Of Edinburgh awards… The only difference now is that the achievements I like to celebrate are wins on behalf of my clients and colleagues. A recent piece of coverage in ‘inews’ has pretty much granted me access to the Teachers Lounge in my head. I don’t need the medal, but I need the peace of mind that I’m working hard to achieve something worth celebrating. We need to acknowledge and appreciate workplace accomplishments. It undoubtedly boosts morale and motivation and as the chilly autumn months arrive, we can all do with a little extra motivation.

 

And finally, my favourite back to school habit that will never leave me…

 

5. It’s almost time to get out my ‘big coat’ (IYKYK)

All the feels. All the memories. And because no office will ever let me pump the heating to the level I truly love!

The ‘back to school’ mentality is a poignant reminder that the spirit of growth, exploration, and resilience lives on within us, no matter our age. It teaches us not only to adapt to change but to relish it, to set goals with unwavering determination, and to cherish the ongoing journey of learning. This mentality encourages us to rally with our colleagues as a cohesive team, and to face challenges with the same determination we once brought to the classroom. Most of all, it reminds us to pause and savour the wins, whether in a classroom or a meeting room. So, whether you’re a recent graduate filled with youthful zeal or a seasoned professional with wisdom etched in your soul, don’t hesitate to channel your inner ‘pupil’ and embrace the ‘back to school’ mentality in the workplace.

 

If September has given you the feeling that it’s time to refresh your marketing strategy, get in touch!