For many of us, the last few months of work have been somewhat surreal. Long drives to the office or public transit are replaced by traveling just a few square feet to our makeshift home offices. Pets and kids are often demanding coworkers in the background of our video calls. Meetings have turned virtual, events have been cancelled or postponed, and business travel is on the back burner. Recently, countries have begun their “reopening phases” and companies are implementing strict and cautious return-to-office protocol, leaving some of us feeling anxious about returning.
According to Verywellmind.com, this is normal. We are experiencing global and collective trauma defined as a “psychological upheaval that is shared by a group of people who all experience the same event” as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic. For some of us, we feel lucky to have maintained work in a very turbulent economic climate, and for essential workers this pandemic resulted in job security but also other stressors – not to mention the fear of getting sick with the virus or having to experience loved ones doing the same. Depending on many factors, this could range from mildly inconvenient to devastating.
Your anxiety is completely valid and understandable. While this post should not replace psychological or medical advice, here are some practical tips from our Manager of Human Resources, Michelle Hopkins, about smoothing out the transition for your return to the office.
- Check with any Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) your employer may provide. These are common benefits and can be a great starting point to tackle any difficult life event, not just the pandemic. Most have phone, email, chat, and video conferencing options available.
- Check with your benefits provider for a COVID-19 resource center to help with financial wellness, mental healthcare, virtual doctor visits, symptom checkers, and many more options.
- Talk with your direct manager about any stress or anxiety you may feel in returning to the office. Does it make sense for you to return right now? Could you stagger your office time or continue working remotely for a while? If you are a manager, are you able to be flexible and sympathetic in these situations?
- Ask your employer for measures to ensure a safe return. Are there adequate hand washing stations, directional control, and masks (if applicable to your region)? Understanding what the office will look like upon return may help with some of your anxiety.
- In addition to these procedures, consider taking additional precautions to make you more comfortable. Wash your hands frequently, clean your workspace daily, and stay home if you or any of your household members are feeling sick.
- Take care of yourself. Get enough sleep, keep hydrated, stay active, practice mindfulness, and eat foods rich in nutrients to help keep your immune system boosted and prepared.
- Create a pre-return checklist the night before your return to the office. Studies show routines assist with alleviating anxiety and helping you feel more centered and organized. This list might look a little different for everyone, but focus on how you feel on a great morning versus one in which you are scrambling out the door at the last second.
Transitions are tough. It was a transition to work from home and it will be a transition to return to the office. Go easy on yourself, go at your own pace, and keep the lines of communication open with your manager.
Disclaimer: Aires does not provide health or legal services. This information is not intended to constitute professional and/or individual medical, mental health, or legal advice. It is for informational purposes only. If further or case-specific information is desired by the reader, Aires recommends that individual consult their personal doctor(s), specialist(s), or legal counsel.