How to Cope with Return-to-Office Anxiety
You may have already got that email from your company HR asking you to return to your physical office space. How did you react? Were you happy to be called back, to be in the company of your colleagues once again? Or did it trigger anxious thoughts about having to readjust your schedule or facing a deficit in family time? How do you plan to respond to this call when there is no other option on the table?
After two years of being home — which afforded people near absolute control over their health, work-life schedules, and much more family time than one could have imagined prior to the pandemic — many working professionals are anxious about returning to the office. It is but natural. The concerns mostly center around protecting our health and safety, giving up the efficiency of working in the peaceful solitude of home, rejigging schedules, and making logistical arrangements around parenting, caregiving, or even housework.
According to a study of 4,553 employees conducted across five countries, every single person reported feeling anxious about returning to office. Of this, the top source of anxiety was exposure to COVID-19 (77%), followed closely by having less flexibility (71%), and having to commute to work again (68.5%).
Even as organizations put in place measures to ease the return to work, working professionals need to manage their social and personal wellbeing effectively while addressing return-to-office anxiety. Here are some ways in which they can do this:
Address the anxiety
It is natural to feel a loss of control as situations change rapidly in your life. The key to finding balance again is through embracing the anxiety. Pay attention to any symptoms of anxiety you might be experiencing — a feeling of uneasiness or fear, manifested in restlessness, sleeplessness, tension, breaking out into a sweat, or a rapid heartbeat. Tune into your mind and body, and acknowledge and address what you’re experiencing. You can try to befriend this emotion mindfully and tackle it through Wholistic Wellbeing. A mindful body scan can help you train your attention to focus on the present and get rid of any anxious thoughts. Connecting to your physical self can help you find an anchor for your feelings. You can do a few minutes of meditation or use sound therapy to train your attention on the present moment in order to destress.
Seek harmony, not balance
It may seem counterintuitive to say one should not try to find balance among the various aspects of life. But finding level ground often means you end up compromising or giving up on something to make space for something else. Instead, seeking harmony through Wholistic Wellbeing can help you find joy in your life and new daily routine. Going back to office doesn’t have to mean you compromise on any aspect of your life. You can still find time for self-care, parenting, eating mindfully, etc. while managing your work if you look at the different aspects of life as complimentary rather than contradictory. There is time and space for everything in life — you just need to harmonize the different elements.
Redraw your daily schedule
Getting back to full-time office work will need you to relook at your daily planner. Just like you used make a timetable ahead of a school night, try drawing or redrawing your daily schedule — including some ‘me’ time, parenting responsibilities or household chores, meal times, relaxation, work, etc. In fact, pin it up somewhere where you can see it every day. Once you factor in time slots for every activity in a timetable, it will become easier to mentally and physically juggle and harmonize each task/activity. Also, try to take a few minutes for yourself before you start the day. Try a guided meditation to help you re-center your energy and set a positive intent for the day.
First day’s to-do list
You are not alone in the anxious ride of switching from the work-from-home life to a return-to-office routine. For the first few days, when you get back to work, take some time before diving headlong into meetings; spend some time connecting with your colleagues, enquire after them and their loved ones, exchange notes on how they’re managing the transition. Getting to know how they tackled the worst of the pandemic and learning about their experiences will help you bond as a team and improve your social wellbeing. Be empathetic to your colleagues and team members, give them time and space to ease into their new routine at work. Listening mindfully to others at work will go a long way in helping you assuage your own anxiety and making your colleagues feel at ease and return-to-office a welcome experience for all.