Ready to get back to work? The office that is, since you never actually stopped working when COVID-19 closed offices and sent many people home to work. A return to the office comes with many benefits – getting to spend real time with coworkers you’ve missed, ditching Zoom fatigue, and once again having boundaries between your work and home life.
However, if you’re feeling anxious about returning to the office, you’re not alone. A recent study found that nearly half of Canadians who have been working from home feel anxious about the switch back to the office. The return to the office is coming so its best to be prepared and start thinking about ways to lessen our anxiety now. Here are a few tips from experts about how to make your return to the office less stressful:
Transition back to your old routine gradually
Chances are your daily routine changed while working from home and it won’t help to try to make an overnight switch back to your old office routine. Start adding back in parts of your old routine in the week before you return to the office. For example, start prepping your lunch the night before or gradually waking up earlier each day to adjust for your commute time. By adjusting to your office routine before you need it, it won’t feel like a shock to your system when you start doing it every day.
Think through what you should do if your anxiety spikes while at work. Make a plan for how you will calm yourself down and where you will go to do that. That might mean stepping outside of the office for some fresh air or having a favourite song ready to play on headphones. You can’t predict if you’ll experience increased anxiety, but just having a plan you can immediately enact is helpful and can even decrease the chances of needing it.
If you haven’t been at your office in months, chances are your desk will need some sprucing up. Dedicate the beginning of your first workday back to cleaning up your desk, wiping away dust, tossing dead plants and expired snacks, and tidying up any clutter that was left behind months ago. A clean, organized work environment is beneficial to your mental health.
Be empathetic to yourself and others
Remember that it’s okay to feel anxious and chances are you’re not the only one at the office feeling that way. Everyone has different comfort levels with pandemic protocols so you’re likely to encounter people who are more and less strict than you about things like personal space and touching surfaces. Communicate your own preferences so others can respect them and do the same for those around you. If someone absent-mindedly forgets themselves and gets too close, gently remind them of your comfort levels and step away.
Remember the positives
Going back to work has many upsides! In addition to once again enjoying time with coworkers, your home will no longer be doing dual duty as your workspace. Many of us have struggled to work from home with children who need our attention or have had to create makeshift workspaces out of dining room tables. Returning to the office eliminates some of the aggravations that came with working from home full time and remembering these can help you transition back.