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Dealing With The Anxiety Of Heading Back To The Office Post-COVID



Remember that moment when the world stopped dead in its tracks and we were forced to work from home, teach from home, and leave our homes only for the “essentials”? Do you remember the anxiety you felt, juggling everything all at once? Do you recall the aching feeling of isolation because your daily social interaction quickly downsized to only family members you lived with! Do you remember rearranging your home so that you could make a pseudo-home office? All of these situations are stress inducing and many of us were at our brink. We lost sleep, gained weight, and forgot about saving some time for ourselves. Fast forward a year and a half and our employers are welcoming us back into the office and we are just not ready!! A new type of world, work environment and anxiety, has consumed us all over again.


After more than a year of working remotely, some employees are having concerns about returning to the workplace that they begrudgingly left in 2020. The bottom line is we have adapted (as we always do) and working from home has become somewhat of a luxury. We have more time with our families (human and fur alike), we have learned how to use our time wisely, we incorporated self-care rituals into our day and we have learned how to make loungewear look chic. The thought of going back to an office, back to wearing suits and back to traffic jams doesn't seem too enticing, coupled with the fear of getting sick and some employees are just not ready to make the move.


The time has come...hugging is back, eating in restaurants is back, and working in the office is back. We claimed to miss all of this when we were stuck at home, but everywhere you look, there are people that are anxious about returning to the office. It is natural to feel the shockwaves of yet another drastic change, and we are here to offer up some tips on making re-entry a little bit smoother.



Think About How You React To Stress


Pay attention to how you react to stress and recognize the cues. Once you can identify the signs of anxiety you can work on reducing it by using stress relief tactics. Whether it is a simple breathing exercise or taking a walk away from your desk and getting some fresh air. Identifying and then engaging are the best ways to get a handle on stress before it takes a hold of you.



Plan Ahead...It Will Always Help To Reduce Anxiety


When we can do everything in our power to quell any unwanted surprises, we are already at an advantage. Anticipating common scenarios and then deciding ahead of time how you are going to handle them will alleviate having to make decisions on the spot as our stress levels begin to creep up. A little planning can go a long way...plan ahead for your commute to work, how you are going to interact with co-workers, what your workspace will look like and what you’ll eat during the day. This type of planning will help reduce the stress that accompanies our daily work related routines.



Talk To Your Co-workers


Before you return to the office, speak with your co-workers, your manager and human resources. We suggest learning about your company’s plan regarding employee safety and health. You will feel more in control if you understand the protocols and the expectations for each employee. Feeling in control of a situation will drastically reduce stress. Be mindful that you are not the only one feeling anxiety about re-entry, addressing and supporting one another opens up doors for communication. Understanding that you are not alone in your fears will help you cope with the back-to-work stressors.



Always Speak Up


While it is always easier to be a wallflower, no one should ever feel unsafe in their work environment. Speak up in an open and respectful manner because you are likely speaking for others who are feeling the same way. If you are having issues with something or someone, make sure you are being heard and the issue is being dealt with. It is never okay to just push it aside.



Use Breaks To Destress


Now, more than ever, taking breaks and taking a little time for yourself is so important. Taking a 10 minute meditation break during the day will help you to refocus and ground yourself. Deep breathing is proven to be calming and can help center you. It will help to decrease your anxiety, as well as improve your mood and productivity! Your boss can thank us later!


The bottom line is that the anticipation is likely worse than the reality. Just like starting a new job, the adjustment period is not spontaneous but eventually happens. At the start of the pandemic, we worked hard to find the right amount of balance between work and life and we were given the opportunity to have more time with our families...and now it is going to change all over again. While return-to-work anxiety is a real phenomenon, we have to remember it was once our reality..so it is doable. And here is a silver lining...time away from our loved ones might actually be good for us - after all, absence makes the heart grow fonder.



By Melanie Akerberg

People Happiness Manager

Bliss Virtual Services

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