As many pandemic restrictions begin to ease, some of us may be asked, or are already planning, to return to the office. Some may be excited about the prospect, while others may find the idea of yet another change to their lifestyles to be anxiety-inducing.
Making a change is often associated with uncertainty and stress – returning to the office is a significant change in how many of us have been living our lives over the past 18 months. Here are five tips to help you manage that stress as you make your return to the office.
- Communication: Communication is key. If there is a significant amount of uncertainty around your return, it can help to ask questions or gather information that may help give you a more clear picture. For example: How often will you need to work from the office? What are the safety protocols in place? Will there be accommodations if your children need to stay home for an extended period? Knowing that there is a plan in place can often help reduce much of the anxiety.
- Return Gradually: If possible, a gradual return to the office can be beneficial. This diminishes the time for anticipatory anxiety to accumulate. This also allows you to “test the waters” and have a few dry runs before returning to the office full time. In doing so, it provides a gradual exposure to any possible anxiety, which can help reduce the anxiety in the long-run and make the return less overwhelming.
- Prioritize tasks: Over the course of the pandemic, our priorities may have changed. Some individuals may be prioritizing exercise, or working on their living space, or cooking or reading more. As some of the old priorities start to re-emerge (e.g., commuting, socializing after work with colleagues, sports, etc.), it will be important to re-prioritize those activities to ensure that you are able to continue to focus on what is most important and meaningful to you.
- Adjust schedules: As routines changed when working from home, we may find that we have planned our activities out differently, or have developed new routines. For example, some of us may have changed our bed and wake up times since we were no longer commuting, or started preparing dinner during the day over breaks from work. As we start to go back to the office, it will be important to readjust and plan for some of the activities. Setting out goals and a schedule ahead of time can help with this readjustment.
- Self-compassion: Change is difficult, and over the course of the pandemic, we have been asked to change many of our social and work behaviours. Now, you may be looking at changing some of those back. There may be some things you like about your new routines, and some things that you are worried to have to deal with again. What’s important to remember is that this is normal! If you feel unsettled or anxious, those are normal emotions. If you feel some loss due to the things you may have to give up, that is normal as well. But, if you find that the emotions begin to overwhelm you, it is important to reach out to a registered mental health professional to assist with managing those emotions.
The content of this blog is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical or psychological advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your mental health provider or physician with any questions that you have regarding mental health concerns. If you think you have an emergency, please call 911 or visit your nearest emergency room.