Preparing for a Return to the Workplace
April 5, 2022
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With a workforce already suffering from a rise in mental distress from the pandemic, many people anticipate experiencing more stress and anxiety as they return to the workplace.
It’s normal to feel anxious when thinking about going back to the office and interacting with others. A gradual transition and thinking about the positive aspects can be beneficial. Remember that returning to the workplace allows everyone to socialize and re-engage in teamwork. Employers who prioritize psychological safety alongside physical safety in their post-pandemic operations can help employees’ mental health and their efforts to cultivate inclusive workplaces. This support can substantially affect critical workplace outcomes, including employee well-being, satisfaction, productivity, and absenteeism.
Here are some ideas that can help make the transitions back to the workplace more comfortable.
BE EMPATHETIC TO YOURSELF AND YOUR COLLEAGUES
The shift to working from home happened almost overnight. Change that takes place quickly affects everyone differently, and for some, it can be pretty traumatic.
The pandemic and lockdowns brought unprecedented losses, such as freedom of movement and uncertainty about the future. Many are also mourning the loss of loved ones to COVID-19. Most of us had to make drastic adjustments to our daily routines resulting in feeling tired and overworked. As you return to the workplace, show yourself and others patience and understanding.
TURN YOUR ANXIOUSNESS INTO AN ADVANTAGE
Going back to work will bring on a range of emotions, including anxiety. Anxiety is a normal emotion that we call to have, an innate mechanism of alerting you to danger. But anxiety can be a source of energy that you can convert into a performance advantage.
If you feel anxious, choose to embrace that energy and use it for the tasks you’re focused on completing. Over time, learning to rework your anxiety will help you perceive feelings of anxiousness as a challenge rather than a threat, ultimately leading to better stress management.
SET BOUNDARIES AND EXPECTATIONS
Working from home can blur the work-life balance line, and it can be challenging to separate yourself from work when “the office” is in your own home. Going back to the office can provide a chance to reset your boundaries regarding your schedule and where you work.
Perhaps you are more productive working remotely. Many employers are open to hybrid work models, so be honest with your employer about what works best for your mental health and productivity.
Employers are now recognizing the productive benefits of having employees work from home. If you choose to continue working from home, consider spending less time on your computer. “Inject some ‘admin time’ into the day, and instead of catching up on paperwork, have a sensory break,” says Meag-gan O’Reilly Ph.D., a psychologist at Stanford, co-founder of Inherent Value Psychology Inc. “Step outside, and close your eyes. Do some breathing or stretching or engage in some meditation.”
REMEMBER, CHANGE IS CHALLENGING
Change is physically and emotionally demanding. To handle change, make sure that you are taking care of yourself and taking time to recharge. Monitor how you are feeling and get help if needed. Consider talking with a healthcare professional if you notice heightened levels of anxiety that impact your ability to function day-to-day for a prolonged period. Be sure to recharge, so you don’t burn yourself out.
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