What to do in the event you’re anxious about returning to the workplace


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After around 18 months of remote work, more and more companies are bringing their employees back to the office.

Many workers have mixed and complicated feelings about the change.

“Coming back to the office can feel like culture shock,” said Debra Kaplan, a therapist in Tucson, Arizona.

In addition to the stress, there is the remaining uncertainty. With the pandemic proving tough to shake, companies keep postponing their return dates, and many haven’t issued mask or vaccination guidelines.

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“I’m more frustrated with unclear or hard-to-find information than fear of getting Covid again,” said Emily, a New York college professor who also asked that only her first name be used.

“And I’m afraid that at some point during the semester the school will have to close completely.”

CNBC spoke to therapists about how people can deal with the change.

Ask questions and plan ahead

“In the absence of specific information [the brain] will fill in the gaps with ‘what if’, “said Kaplan.” This creates a hamster wheel of obsessive-compulsive thinking. “

To avoid this spiral, try to get as much detail as you can about your company’s return to work plans, she said. “The simple act of getting as many answers as possible will calm our brains.”

According to Kaplan, if certain information is not readily available, you may need to speak to your manager. “I suggest that those who have concerns share their concerns directly,” she added.

If something is still troubling you, think about what would make you feel better.

“Make a suggestion so that a solution may meet your needs,” said Kaplan.

To avoid big surprises on your first day, Lisa Baranik, Assistant Professor of Management at the University at Albany, recommends visiting her office before the official return date. (If that’s allowed, of course.)

Employees may find that their desk or cafeteria is in a new location, or that the technology has been updated.

Besides, Baranik said, think about your first day and make decisions beforehand. “What are you going to wear?” She said. “What are you going to do for lunch? The preparation will help ensure that the transition goes smoothly. “

Some fears about returning to work may be less rational, said Keith Miller, a social worker in Washington, DC

That doesn’t mean they should be fired.

“Some responses to change can be childlike,” Miller said. “Send compassion to that young part of you.

Introverts should think about which aspects of home work they have most valued and how to maintain those aspects in a new setting.

Susan Cain

Author of “Tranquility: The Power of the Introvert in a World That Can’t Stop Talking”

“For example, you might discover an irrational fear of wearing shoes all day,” he added. “But if you approach this fear with compassion rather than anger, then it may just want permission to take off your shoes in the office.

“So, you make yourself a place to stay.”

Introverts have mostly enjoyed remote work, said Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. As a result, they may be more afraid of being thrown back into an office with coworkers and supervisors.

“To prepare emotionally, introverts should think about which aspects of working from home they have most valued and how to maintain those aspects in a new setting,” said Cain.

“Did you enjoy walking all day?” She added. “Often this is also possible in an office context; people just don’t think about it or feel vaguely guilty when they step back.”

Separation anxiety

After so much time at home, some workers may have difficulty being separated from their pets.

“Having a pet is like having a child for a lot of people,” said Kaplan. She recommends pet owners if they can afford to hire a sitter or walker so they can feel like they’ll take care of their animals in their absence.

Others might want to get a home camera, she said. “The visual link reassures animal parents that their loved one is safe and likely to be snoring on the couch, comfortably waiting for the animal parents to return.”

Mark Gerald, a Manhattan psychoanalyst, encourages people to focus on what they gain when they return to the office.

“Being part of a community, an organization, learning more about yourself and others through closer teamwork are essential values ​​to being part of the world,” he said.

At the same time, he said, it’s okay to grieve over your pandemic routine.

“For those less satisfied with the job, the commute, or the formality of the look and feel, work became a new, more flexible, and integrated part of life,” said Gerald. “For many in this cohort, the prospect of going back to the office is a significant element of loss.”

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