While remote work during the Pandemic had its own challenges, now that many people are back in the office in some capacity, they are finding it more stressed and anxious than they anticipated.
One in three employees say that returning to work has made them anxious and depressed, according to a study by McKinsey.
Naomi Torres-Mackie, PhD, clinical psychologist at Lenox Hill Hospital and head of research at the Mental Health Coalition, said that social anxiety may be a main reason people are afraid of going back into the office.
She told Healthline that two years into the Pandemic, we are all a bit rusty when it comes to our social skills, and that connecting over Zoom is very different from connecting in person.
Fear of getting sick and Covid-19 anxiety are partially to blame.
With the guidelines and situation changing daily, it can be difficult to feel safe to return to work.
Change is hard. Most people used to leave home and go to their workplace before the pandemic. Many workers were forced to change to remote work because of the swine flu.
Return to the office is another adjustment.
Positive adjustments can be challenging. When a routine becomes upended, it can cause anxiety, feelings of worry and uneasiness, and low mood.
Stress can be caused by returning to a negative work environment, according to the founder of the Bowman Foundation for Workplace Equity and Mental Well-being.
While working from home, many have been considered a safe place free from office politics, micro-aggressions, toxic work cultures and the pressure to conform to corporate culture.
If heading back into the office causes you stress, consider the following tips from health experts.
Accept your feelings of anxiety.
Acceptance of your feelings can help process anxiety, because it tends to get worse when you resist it or judge yourself for having it.
She said that if you can accept that you are having difficult feelings and normalise them for yourself, you will likely find that the difficult feelings decrease in intensity and frequency.
Natalie Christine Dattilo agreed. She said it’s best to resist the urge to assume something is wrong if you feel nervous.
She said to practice the following re-statements: I wish this were easier, but for now it’s still
It is normal for me to struggle in these not-normal times.
I don’t know if others are doing better than I am.
Everyone is doing the best that they can, including me.
Gradually expose yourself to the world.
To work in the office.
If you are given a choice as to how much you work in the office, start with a few days a week and add on more days as you get used to it.
It’s best to do the thing that scares you with small steps. You could do this by going in just for a few hours a day for a while or doing a test run on a non-work day.
A routine is established.
Try to be consistent while you’re easing back into work. Decide what days and times you will be in the office, and plan your work around that.
She said having a set routine can help reduce stress and make it easier to return to the office.
You can create a task list.
When you wake up in the morning, make a to-do list with deadlines in mind.
Staying organised and on top of things will help reduce feelings of stress and overwhelm during the adjustment period. Dattilo said that this will help you prioritise your time and effort.
Give yourself time to recover.
Dattilo said that getting comfortable with things you haven’t done in a while like dealing with a long commute or being in close proximity to others may take time.
It makes sense that a part of us will be hesitant to do things we have been told are unsafe.
As your brain learns to respond to a new set of circumstances, you may have to assure it that it is safe.
Relax by doing stress-relieving activities.
At the beginning and end of your workdays, Torres-Mackie suggested that you schedule activities that you enjoy and bring you stress-relief as you adjust to being back.
She said that this means that you will have an opportunity to receive anticipatory stress in the morning before work and residual stress that you bring home with you after work.
Also, take breaks throughout the day, too.
To rest and to get up and move around. She said taking a few minutes can reduce stress.
The boundaries are set.
If returning to work is not enjoyable due to unacceptable conduct by co-workers or your employer, you should inform the person that their behavior is unacceptable.
If that person is your boss, report them to HR. She said to have a zero-tolerance for workplace malfeasance.
Seek assistance from a professional.
Dattilo said that if you find yourself agitated, impatient, or panicked around your co-workers, you will likely go away over time. It may be helpful to talk to a friend or family member.
She said to not hesitate to seek support or speak with your doctor if your anxiety persists or worsens.
Regular effortful exercise, natural sleep, social connection, gratitude practice, laughter or play, and meditation for relaxation or focus are some scientifically-supported self-care practices that help mitigate the effects of anxiety.
The bottom line is what it says.
Having a plan in place to deal with stress and anxiety can help ease the transition back to work.
Healthline.com is a website.