Returning to the office after months or even over a year of working from home can seem a daunting task. According to a recent survey, over 66% of workers claim to be concerned about returning to the office. This can be for a few different reasons. After being away from the social environment of the office for so long, it’s only natural to feel concerned about trying to fit back into it. A lot has changed this past year, what if everyone else is different too? How do I re-establish prior workplace relationships? These are all common questions, and you aren’t alone in having such concerns.
You could also be concerned about your safety and the safety of others. Whether it’s worrying about if people are vaccinated or if your place of work is taking the pandemic seriously enough. Of course, these are things you should be on the lookout for. It’s ok to be worried about your health and many people are.
Another common complaint is about how returning to the office will affect the work-life balance that you had established while working from home. It goes without saying that many fell into some sort of rhythm while working remotely so the transition from that to being back in the office can be a source of stress.
How can I deal with these sources of stress?
Firstly, you should be aware that it’s ok to ask any questions that come to mind, and you should share your concerns with your employer. At the same time, it may be helpful to talk to your co-workers ahead of time about whatever is worrying you. There’s nothing wrong with looking for some support. Equally, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to check or confirm policies or protocols to address your safety concerns. While you’re at it, try to work out a plan that will allow you to reintegrate at your own pace. This could include a slower transition. Maybe initially, it could just be a few days in a week that you work in the office. Perhaps you could try alternating between remote work and working in the office at first. You should similarly work out a better sleep schedule.
Furthermore, it would also be worth considering tidying up your workplace and moving a few things around. Perhaps changing your work environment will reinvigorate you and if it’s been vacant for a long time then it may need some seeing to anyway. A clean and well-organised environment can go a long way for your mental health and can do wonders when it comes to reducing stress levels.
In fact, you should think about using this transition as an opportunity to make changes for the better in a few ways. A change in wardrobe even could make a lot of difference. Is there anything in particular about returning to the office that’s stressing you out? Feel free to try to change these things. For example, if you’re stressed out about having to talk to people then maybe try to warm yourself up to the idea. Instead of fearing people coming to talk to you, try to start a conversation yourself. Leading a conversation yourself may help you feel you have more control over it and thus may help you get more used to it.
Think about being a source of joy for others. Empathy goes a long way and making others feel better usually will make you feel better. You can start light-hearted conversations with your colleagues, get each other to share funny mishaps they experienced while working from home. Something like this could even become a weekly tradition, it could be something silly as giving a small prize (like a snack from the vending machine) to the winner of the “most embarrassing WFH story” to keep moods high and create a sense of camaraderie amongst you all.
However, making others happy shouldn’t come at the cost of your own mental health. Be sure to monitor your anxiety. It’s understandable that you may want to hide it, whether from shame or to put on a brave face to not bring others down. Alternatively, you may be unaware of how obvious it is. Either way, it’s important to take note of how exactly you’re feeling. Acknowledge what a tough time it has been and acknowledge your own feelings. You are human and it is natural to feel at least a little stressed.
Following this, don’t be afraid to seek help. Whether you need to talk to the HR department or a therapist, there’s nothing wrong with seeking help. Even if you feel a little ashamed that you need help, remember that it’s better to feel a little embarrassed as you get help than it is to live with whatever sources of stress are making you feel bad in the first place. It’s natural to feel stressed or panicked or just negatively in general especially in the face of such a major global health crisis. You aren’t alone, you don’t need to feel like you are so you should feel free to seek out a medical professional who won’t judge you for expressing how you’re feeling.
This may be a difficult transition but above mentioned tips can make it a bit easier.