As many of us become eligible for a Covid vaccine, working-from-home is starting to be less of a necessity and non-essential workplaces are beginning to welcome back their vaccinated employees. While this is great news, it comes with it’s own set of challenges. Since many of us have been working from home for a year or more, we’ve become acutely aware of the specific struggles that come with that, and we may have forgotten some of the obstacles of the in-person workplace. Here are some ideas on how to be mindful of your mental wellness as you return to in person work.
Make a list of easy coping strategies:
The last year has had a tremendous impact on our levels of anxiety, so it’s natural to feel anxious at the thought of returning to work. After a year of being told to stay far, far away from anyone you aren’t living with, it can feel like you’re doing something wrong to actually be in the same indoor space as your coworkers. Be kind to yourself when you’re feeling that stress and remember there are strategies you can use to help yourself to cope. These can be things like wearing a mask even when it isn’t “necessary” to help ease that anxiety, opening windows to get air flow, using your lunch or other breaks as an excuse to get outside and go for a walk. Give yourself some grace and remember that it won’t be a seamless adjustment.
Brainstorm creative adjustments to things you dread:
For example, the commute! That’s one thing that so many of us have been loving about work-from-home. NO commute! Admittedly, the idea of going back to sitting in traffic at early morning hours sounds unpleasant. The latest World Happiness report confirmed this–commuting worsens our mood. But, in the report there was also evidence that turning it into a social activity did the total opposite. Instead of it being a dreaded task that makes your day worse, those who commuted with a partner or a friend actually enjoyed the time!
This might not be possible right away, as you have to assess the risks & safety of commuting with someone right now. But if you live near a vaccinated coworker you enjoy spending time with, or work near where another vaccinated friend works, you could turn this dreaded part of the day into something you actually look forward to!
All year long you have probably heard some variation of this, but it’s true! The kind of collective stress we have all been under, as well as the stresses we face as individuals, is something we never could have predicted or prepared for. Just as adjusting to work-from-home was a process, so will adjusting to being back in the workplace. Remember that stress takes a toll–it literally makes it harder to function. If you have a journal, a planner, or even a place you keep notes on your phone, write yourself some reminders you can look at when you’re feeling upset over not meeting your expectations.
Create a hub of support:
One of the worst feelings is the sense of struggling alone. The good news is: you’re definitely not alone in this! Not everyone you know is returning to in person work, but at the very least, your coworkers are, even if your friends aren’t. That means there is an entire group of people you know who are going through the same struggle you’re going through as you work through the stress and anxiety of returning to in person work. Find some ways to connect with them on it–whether it’s a slack channel that you use as a water cooler of sorts, or for a more formal option, a meeting where you get together to talk about what specifically you’re struggling with and get advice and support from your colleagues.
We’ve spent a lot of time throughout this pandemic feeling (and being) very isolated from one another, so it can feel almost unnatural to set up these group settings, but it’s important to be intentional about not isolating ourselves as we return to in person work.