More and more people are getting the COVID vaccine, and with that, opening up the world entirely once again is becoming that much more attainable. But, at the same time, opening up the world again means heading back into the office for work.
Many employees have grown accustomed to the remote work lifestyle. So, thinking about returning to work in person and the changes required to do so is filling them with anxiety. “Going back to the office” anxiety is real and must be approached with care and caution.
You can effectively manage your anxiety and other mental health challenges brought on by this transition, but it will take some preparation. It will also require an honest conversation with yourself about what’s best for your physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing. Here are four tips for managing “going back to the office” anxiety.
Gather All the Information You Need About Your Return to Work
Many people are feeling fearful about returning to work because they don’t know what to expect. However, they’ve just been given a return to work date and are expected to show up. So instead, take the initiative and find out all you can about your return to work.
For example, it’s a good idea to ask if ther[bookly-cancellation-confirmation]e is an absence management policy in place that allows for a flexible transition back to office life. An absence management policy ensures solutions and resources are available to help mitigate absenteeism and prevent it from becoming a regular occurrence for an employee.
In this case, the anxiety you feel about going back to the office can be extremely overwhelming, and that can result in frequent call-outs. If your workplace has a solid absence management program, it is easier to take time off when things become too much for you mentally and emotionally.
Other questions to ask include:
- When is my scheduled return date?
- Is this date flexible?
- What is my new schedule?
- Who will I be working with?
- What health and safety measures have been implemented in the workplace?
- Are vaccinations required or encouraged?
- What about those who decide not to get vaccinated?
- What resources are available to maintain physical and mental wellness?
- What if I need to take time off?
- Are there any childcare resources?
- Have my job responsibilities changed?
Once you’ve gathered as much information as you can about your return to work, you can decide if everything you need for a safe return is available or not. If not, work with your manager to see if your needs can be accommodated. But if it turns out they can’t provide what you need, it’s okay to consider not returning.
Not Returning is an Option
If you find that the company you work for isn’t willing or able to accommodate your needs to feel safe and secure returning to the workplace, not returning is an option. If leadership isn’t displaying empathy, flexibility, or concern for your mental health, it may not be the best decision.
If you’re seriously leaning toward not returning, ensure you have a plan in place to remain stable as you search for your next role. For instance, you want to know how long your finances can hold up as you search for a new job.
You also want to make some decisions about career next steps. If you’ve grown to like remote work and find it will be beneficial in the long run, start applying for remote positions at suitable companies. Then, as companies show interest, polish your remote job interview skills. Practice appropriate body language and conversational skills in a mock interview with a friend and ask for feedback.
Ultimately, if you don’t feel like a return to the office is the right choice, explore other career options that better suit your needs. On the other hand, if you decide to return to your office and have negotiated your return to your satisfaction, it’s best to prepare for your new normal before the transition.
Prepare for Your New Normal
The last thing you want to do is wait until the day before you have to return to the office to prepare for the transition. This is a surefire way to trigger your anxiety and end up in panic mode. Instead, start preparing way before your return date.
Figure out what your new routine will be. You want to ensure you’re still making time to take care of yourself physically, emotionally, and mentally. Additionally, you can map out your commute, visit the office ahead of time to get your workspace situated and chat with your manager to re-establish the connection.
Lastly, even if you’re thoroughly prepared for going back to the office, it may be a good idea to add another layer of support by enlisting the help of a professional.
Reach Out to a Professional if You Need One
Simply put, it’s okay to reach out to a professional for help navigating your anxiety about going back to work. They can help you confront why going back to the office makes you so anxious. A professional can also assist you in developing personalized coping mechanisms to manage your anxiety or other mental health conditions.
To find a suitable professional, you want first to look at what your health insurance covers. Typically, you can search for a mental health professional in your network on your health insurance website. If you don’t have health insurance, determine your budget for seeing a professional. Then, do a thorough search on the internet for professionals that match your needs, budget, and desired location.
Ultimately, therapists and other mental health professionals can help you work through your symptoms when they become too much to manage independently.
If you’re having difficulty managing the different emotions associated with making the transition back to in-office work, you aren’t alone. Implement the tips above to help you navigate your anxiety and make a triumphant return to the office. But only if that’s the best decision for you.