After months of working from home, are you feeling a bit anxious about going back to the office?
Well, you are not alone. Having mixed feelings about returning to work is part of the new normal across the globe. People want in-person reconnection, but they also don’t. Concerns for safety, social anxiety, and the idea of having to deal with corporate life mix up to create the so-called “return-to-office anxiety” that can quickly drain out our mental health.
How to cope with it and make your journey returning to office easier? We have gathered some advice from professional psychologists:
Returning to the office is a gradual transition
Human’s mind can’t be flipped overnight. It’s our natural tendency to feel stressed facing uncertain situations. Do you recall when you first switched to working from home, wasn’t it anxious too?
Think of how you got through the first month of working from home. It wasn’t smooth at first, but then things gradually fell into place after 2 – 3 months. It’s the same pattern this time. First thing first, prepare your mindset. You don’t have to be rushed, as no one will expect you to. Give yourself time to adapt just like when you start a new job or switch from being onsite to mobile working.
Ask questions & Have a plan
Dr. Rachelle Scott, a psychiatrist, shared the following tips with Business Insider. She encourages gathering as much information as possible before returning to the office. It could be policy changes, safety integrations, employee requirements, etc. Employees should have clear visibility about how the company is helping them stay safe.
Planning can also help ease anxiety. Having control over your commute route, what you will have for lunch, who you will meet, and what tasks to do is one way to trick the brain into feeling more secure and safe.
Communicate your needs to colleagues and the company
The situation is you must pick up old pre-pandemic office routines, but many norms have changed. Office life means lots of social interactions along with increased infection risk. Not to mention that although vaccination is a personal choice, in terms of psychology, interaction with unvaccinated colleagues or customers can be a source of anxiety for some people. Thus, it is important to clearly communicate your health status, preferred safety practices and precautions (if any) in advance.
Let your colleagues know how comfortable you are with wearing masks, close in-person interactions, meeting in small rooms, or having lunch together, etc. Inform the HR department in case you have personal health issues that affect immunity and ask for advice or recommendations.
Open sharing will help ease social awkwardness post-Covid and relight old relationships. Why not give it a try?
Embrace the bright side of the return
There might be plenty of reasons for not going back, especially for introverts. However, on the bright side, office environment has some benefits that even the strongest hesitant can’t resist:
- Social belonging: Humans are social animals, most of us long for social interaction to maintain our mental health. In addition, physical bonds are always tighter than online ones. The return to office is a great chance to strengthen our social identity and network, and most importantly, to feel connected again.
- Collaboration: Colleagues who can physically see and communicate with each other tend to have better collaboration.
- Productivity: Though this is heavily function-based, some jobs are more productive in office settings than at home. If you work in the sales department, or construction, engineering, real estate, etc., you may prefer working onsite.
- Keep distractions away: both offices and homes have their distinct types of distraction. But according to our survey, nearly haft of respondents list “Distractions at home” as their biggest challenge when working at home.
The new everchanging normal we must adapt to is scary, but isn’t it so for every beginning? It is completely normal to feel stressed, even dreaded ahead of changes. So, stay calm, give yourself time, expect things to be a little sloppy at first, but soon you will slay it, just like you did many times before.
🔥 Read more about the world of work and mental resilience post-pandemic:
- Office Etiquette: How to ask co-workers and clients if they are vaccinated
- Return to work post-COVID-19: 8 advice for a safe restart
- Signs of a Toxic Workplace and How to Stay Sane
- Working parents amid COVID-19: Moms are more likely than dads to burnout juggling work and family
- Generations & COVID-19: Same pandemic, diverse experiences, and different workplace expectations