When COVID-19 became a threat in March of 2020, several measures were put in place to help curb the spread of the virus. In addition to mandatory mask-wearing and stay-at-home orders, many companies began implementing remote work policies which saw employees working from home instead of commuting to the office. Fast forward to the summer of 2021 and we’ve seen many strides in overcoming the pandemic. With many people now vaccinated and as quarantine restrictions become looser, companies around the world are requiring employees to return to the office as we try to usher in a post-COVID lifestyle.
Depending on your personal circumstances, you may be quite happy to return to the office, or you may be dreading it. Many people have come to enjoy the freedom and flexibility of working from home and the benefits it provides, such as reducing transportation and clothing expenses and the ability to take care of children and pets while working. Others miss their pre-COVID routines of commuting to an office because it allowed for better separation of personal and professional life. Others are simply more productive in an office setting or enjoy being able to interact with their coworkers. Regardless of your feelings towards returning to the office, it will certainly be a big transition for all of us after a year and a half of getting accustomed to remote work.
Evaluate Your Concerns
There are many understandable concerns that you may have about returning to the office. Maybe you’re concerned about the virus itself and whether a return to work may cause you to get sick. To help ease this anxiety, consider the methods you can use to keep safe. If you and your coworkers are vaccinated, there is a significantly smaller chance of contracting or spreading the virus. Regardless, it’s still a good idea to continue practicing social distancing, frequent sanitizing of your hands and wearing your mask. By using these safety measures, you can feel a bit more confident in your ability to stay healthy, which can help to ease your anxiety.
Maybe your concerns are about a lack of flexibility that may come with returning to the office. If you have come to enjoy working remotely and want to continue doing so, you may wish to consider all your options. Is there any room for negotiating with your employer? It may be possible to come to an agreement about a hybrid system where you come in office some days and work from home on other days. Otherwise, you may want to consider transitioning out of your current job by searching for one that allows for remote work. For many people, the pandemic was the catalyst they needed to make positive changes towards a more rewarding career.
Focus on the Positives
We all know the many benefits of positive thinking. Positive thinkers are better able to cope with challenging or distressing situations and tend to have better mental and physical health. By taking an optimistic view of a situation, it can become a lot more manageable, but by focusing on the negatives, the experience is likely to be a drag.
Even if you are reluctant to return to the office, see if you can find something to look forward to about heading back. One benefit of working in an office is the ability to better separate your personal and professional life. For many people who work from home, work never seems to stop because there is no real line of demarcation between the office and the home. Coming home to your comfort zone after a day of work is often a satisfying feeling because you’re able to leave work at the office, which is a lot more difficult when you work at home.
Another potential positive about returning to the office is an increase in productivity. For many workers, the home office is a place of many distractions such as family members, pets or the doorbell. A lot of people are able to perform more efficiently in an office setting, leading to a better quality of work and higher satisfaction on the job.
For many people, lockdown was a lonely time and a return to the office brings a welcome opportunity to interact and socialize with colleagues. Teamwork can be a lot easier and more fun when teammates are working together in person. Though Zoom is convenient, there’s nothing quite like collaborating and brainstorming in person.
Setting Boundaries at the Office
Working in an office makes it easier to leave work at work. You’re better able to set boundaries with your time and manage people’s expectations of you. Now is the time to evaluate the boundaries that you wish to set with your coworkers and superiors. Maybe you will not answer work-related calls or emails after 5:00 and on the weekends. This kind of boundary might have been more difficult to set when working from home, because there may be an expectation that you are always on the clock.
In a post-COVID world, we also need to consider setting boundaries with our physical space. Whether or not you are vaccinated, it’s still a good idea to continue practicing social distancing as much as possible. You may have to prepare yourself to set boundaries regarding handshakes, hugs and other physical contact, depending on your own comfort level. If these kinds of conversations are difficult for you, try practicing them ahead of time so you will know exactly what to say to coworkers if the need arises.
Make Self-Care a Priority
As with any major life transition, it’s important to practice self-care to ensure that your physical and emotional needs are being met. You may need to create a new self-care routine that is compatible with your life at the office. For example, you may wish to develop a new morning routine to ensure a peaceful and enjoyable start to your days. Ensure you are keeping a healthy sleep schedule by going to bed at an early enough time and at about the same time every night. Starting your day with sufficient rest, a healthy breakfast and even a spiritual practice can lead to a better day at the office.
Here at Flourish Psychology, we understand that work contributes to your overall happiness and sense of purpose in life. Counseling with a therapist can help you to identify and work towards a more satisfying and fulfilling career, while reducing work-related stress or anxiety. To schedule your first session, contact us today.