Many workplaces are going back and forth with their offices' reopening and schedules due to COVID-19 and its recent resurgence. Some companies have adjusted their timelines and what the workplace will entail leaving employees with some mixed feelings.
When working from home, we have had a way to continue to earn a living without the risk of exposing ourselves or our loved ones to COVID-19. Many fear they will be less safe when returning to close quarters with their colleagues as well as commuting on public transportation. In addition to these health and safety concerns, employees also worry about losing the benefits of working remotely. Those working from home currently value the perks of flexibility, having no commute time, and have also adjusted to working from home. Those who are eager to return to normal, or "the new normal", and have been caring for others at home during work hours are looking forward to a routine and adult socialization.
Whether our companies return to the office full time or just a few days a week, a disruption to our daily routines can feel overwhelming. The adjustment to accommodate our commutes, both to and from, and interacting with more people than we are used to can feel daunting. Focusing on the positives that can come from going back into the office, we can lessen our stress loads. There are several advantages to returning to the office that a home environment lacks. Benefits can include rebuilding social connections, reducing the feeling of loneliness many felt during the lock down, fewer distractions that reduce productivity, and a firmer boundary between our work and home lives. Our ability to work through another work-related transition will show our commitment and flexibility to our jobs.
When returning, it is normal to feel some social anxiety, but taking a gradual approach to socializing and interacting can helps ease the transition. You can start with connecting with individuals or smaller groups of people before interacting with an entire team. By prioritizing those who support you and get along with you can help ease the social transition. Figure out what social norms feel comfortable to you and develop a plan to respect your personal boundaries. Modeling this behavior with co-workers can also set the expectations for how they are to engage with you. This can ultimately help you feel safer and set expectations.
Returning to the office environment can feel overwhelming at times, but practicing self-care help cope with the stress of change. Getting into a routine a week beforehand can help with a smoother transition back into the workplace. This includes timely meals, consistent sleep, adequate physical activity, and relaxation time. Also, set aside breaks during the workday in intervals to de-stress and rejuvenate. Being mindful of the warning signs of stress and addressing them in real time can also help to de-stress.
Try not to put pressure on yourself when returning to the workplace in whatever capacity your workplace chooses. Getting back to normal, or your new normal, will take some time. Transition can vary from person to person and going back to the workplace will eventually feel like a normal part of life. This change has its advantages and challenges, but will ultimately strengthen your resilience against the stress of change.