Easing the Transition of Heading Back to the Office

By George Kovacik

After a year of working at home in our pajamas, some of us are being called back to the office now that millions of Americans have been vaccinated and COVID-19 hospitalizations are continuing to drop. There are going to be some that are looking forward to getting back to normal and there are others who want no part of going back to the office.

Mariam Wahby, PhD, LMFT-S, an Education Specialist with Behavioral Health Services at Memorial Hermann Health System, says despite the data, the thought of returning to work will be debilitating for some people. Many, especially those who have not ventured out too much during the past year, will fear that being in close proximity to co-workers in a confined space will open them up to catching the virus.

“The threat of COVID-19 has been in the media almost every day for the past year,” Wahby said. “It might be hard for some people to truly believe that things are getting better and feel safe. That uncertainty could affect their work and how they interact with their peers.”

Wahby says it’s important to share your concerns with your employer, especially if you do not feel safe in the office you are working in. She adds it might be helpful to go to your office a few days before everyone returns to get a sense of your comfort and familiarize yourself with a space you’ve been away from for so long.

“This virus has been invisible since the beginning and there are no visible indications of safety from those around you. The sense of not knowing, and the anxiety one may experience, can paralyze some people,” Wahby said. “It might be helpful to talk to your employer ahead of going back into the office to discuss the safety measures that have been put into place as well as any concerns you may have. This will go a long way towards easing your mind about returning to work.”

Wahby adds, the concerns are justified, and it may be helpful for those who are anxious about returning to work to consider the progress made over the last 15 months.

“Although returning to work in the office may be daunting, the growth that has been achieved and continues to occur may be a source of comfort,” Wahby said. “Take deep breaths and check in with what messages you repeat to yourself. Telling yourself that returning to the office is part of regaining normalcy may go a long way towards helping you feel more comfortable.”

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