For more than year the question on employees’ minds has been, “When will we be asked to return to the office?” For some, the idea of going back has been welcome; for others it’s a cause of anxiety. Acknowledging and understanding the legitimate anxiety you or your colleagues may be experiencing about returning to an office environment, is important.
5 Tips for Managing Your Return-to-Office Anxiety
1. Flexible Hours or Gradual Return
If the commute to work is something that fills you with dread or you've become used to being able to do school drop-off and pick-ups, ask your manager whether there’s a possibility of starting in the office a little later or finishing slightly earlier to avoid rush hour. You might be able to log on at home and then use your coffee break to drive into the office or leave work early to pick your children up and then log on at home afterwards. Maybe there is a possibility of a phased return, where you can do one or two days in the office to start with. Try to ease yourself in if you can.
2. Gather Information and Talk to Others
Inquire about changes to your workplace. Will you still be sitting in the same place? What extra safety measures have been introduced? Are you required to wear masks? Talking to other co-workers and asking your manager or employer questions such as these will mean you know what to expect when you return and will help you feel more prepared and in control. Working from home has made employers and management more aware of their team's personal lives and in many cases, there are more open lines of communication to voice concerns. Don't be afraid to ask questions and share your home commitments and responsibilities.
3. Communicate Your Needs and Boundaries
Set expectations with co-workers by being as open as you can about your views, schedule and plans. Let others know how comfortable you are with social greetings and interactions as well as how often you'd like to be in the office or attend face-to-face meetings. Being open and communicating your needs and boundaries will also encourage others to be open and honest with how they're feeling and help to avoid any awkwardness.
4. Make a Plan
To avoid increased anxiety on your first day in the office, take time to plan ahead. Practice your commute to determine whether travel time or transport schedules have changed. Plan for rest and personal time after work and set time for activities that help you relax and unwind. Understand that it's expected and acceptable to feel more tired than usual as you adjust to new routines and the stimulation of being in the office environment again.
5. Break Time
Schedule time for breaks during your day in the office. Being back with colleagues may feel great for some, but overwhelming for others. Make sure you schedule in breaks for fresh air or 'time out' of the social office whirl. There may even be a quiet room or area where you can work alone or catch up on emails without being bombarded with colleague chatter.