CONQUERING RETURN TO OFFICE ANXIETY

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    Two years ago, our work lives were dramatically changed when most of us were required to work from home. Originally, we thought it would be a few weeks, but as weeks turned to months and then years, we adapted to the new work environments and schedules. Now that employers are bringing staff back to the office full time or on hybrid schedules, this can be cause for anxiety and uncertainty.

    Many of us embraced working from home because it allowed us to spend more time with family, to carve out time during the day to exercise or take care of household chores. Going back to the office means new childcare arrangements, employing dog walkers for that newly adopted puppy, adjusting the alarm clock to allow for that 1-hour commute, not to mention adding commuting expenses back into the budget. All of this can add up to a lot of stress, but we have a few tips to alleviate the stress and ease back to office life.

    1. Be informed – speak to your manager about the expectations for returning to the office. If they want you back full-time, can you ease into the new schedule over a period of time? You may want to try to work out a permanent hybrid schedule, dividing your work hours between home and office. Having those conversations can help ease anxiety. If you have concerns, make sure to ask about safety protocols to protect you and your co-workers if someone becomes ill.
    2. Have conversations with your family – it’s important that we talk about how the return to office will affect family time, childcare, carpooling, dog walking and household chores. This will help to manage everyone’s expectations of the changes that will need to be made. Don’t be shy about asking for help to keep things on track.
    3. Get organized – start making calls to address childcare, cleaning, laundry services, pet sitting, etc. This could be a good time to look at grocery delivery services or subscription meal programs, at least for the first few months.
    4. Do test runs – start setting the alarm for the time you need to wake up to get to the office. Check Waze or Google Maps for commute times if you will be driving. Many commuters have not yet embraced mass transit, so traffic may be heavier than before the pandemic. But if you can use mass transit, check bus and train schedules.
    5. Prepare meals – know how much time it takes to prepare your coffee/breakfast/lunch as if you were going to the office so you can see how it affects your schedule.
    6. Take time for yourself – when you head back to the office, try to make some time to walk at lunch, or listen to a podcast on your commute. Look for positive ways to enjoy your day and maintain an exercise routine.
    7. Reconnect with co-workers – you may have lost contact with work friends, and you may have co-workers you have yet to meet in person. Many of us dramatically reduced our social interactions during the last 2 years, so take some time to enjoy these interactions.
    8. Set new boundaries – you may have been much more lenient with your work boundaries when your office was in your home and answering emails and calls at all times of the day and evening may have become normal. If going to the office means less family time, make sure to set boundaries to protect your work life balance.
    9. Embrace positivity and gratitude – attitude is everything and returning to the office has a bright side, including connecting with your co-workers and managers in an organic way, without a zoom invite. You can enjoy those favorite lunch spots and get to meet in person with mentors and others who can help you develop your career. If you are required to go back to the office, give yourself a moment to be grateful for the opportunity to work from home during some very stressful times.
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