As more people are getting vaccinated, more employers are opting to bring workers back into the office. While some people are excited to embrace the familiar routine of working in the office, others may be feeling more anxious. Below you will find some tips and tricks to help you mentally prepare for your return, as well as ways to advocate for your safety in a respectable and professional manner.
Once you know when you will be returning to the office, start to mentally walk through different parts of your day. Imagine yourself on your morning commute, listening to the radio, a podcast, or an audiobook. Perhaps you hit up the drive-thru for your favorite morning beverage or to grab a quick bite to eat. Walk through the doors to the building, going through your familiar route to your space. Greet your colleagues and give an air high-five to your friends. Going through this mental preparation will help decrease some of the anxiety and prepare your brain and body for your return.
Visit the Office
If possible, do a dry run of returning to work. Take the opportunity to go back, look around, and sit in your chair. Doing this will allow those previously formed neural pathways to start firing again, helping to reduce those butterflies you may be feeling in your body. While you’re there, take the opportunity to clean up and rearrange your space. Add new pictures and decor to make the space feel new and inviting. Update those family photos, add a picture of your new pup, and bring in a potted plant to liven up the environment. Research indicates that plants help reduce stress levels and increase work productivity by as much as 15%. If you do not have a green thumb, a fake potted plant works just as well. Reorganize your desk, toss out those dried up ink pens, and update the calendar. Take a moment to stock a draw with your favorite snacks, some cleaning supplies, hand sanitizer, and maybe even a box of disposable masks. If you are able to do this before your official first day back at the office, you’ll be able to come in with peace of mind knowing that your space is already set up and ready for you to return.
When you look good, you feel good. Studies show that work attire helps you feel confident and professional. Buy a new professional outfit or two if your budget allows. Refresh some of your favorite outfits by adding in a new scarf or some other statement piece. Invest in yourself so that you feel comfortable, confident, and ready to conquer the day.
Returning to normal work hours may feel overwhelming. During our time of quarantine, many of us have been working odd hours in order to accommodate virtual schooling and other aspects of managing our families. Therefore, it is vital that you make sure you are well rested to prevent nodding off during in office meetings. Establishing a bedtime routine and wake up routine will go a long way in helping you mentally prepare.
How to Deal with Safety Concerns
At the time this blog was written, we are hovering around 50% of the population having at least one dosage of the covid-19 vaccine. The CDC has said those who are fully vaccinated may now go out in public without masks. Soon, children will be eligible to receive the vaccine as well. These are all great signs that we are making great progress to reaching herd immunity, thus reducing the risk of contracting the virus. However, many of us are still hesitant to go without our masks, eat in restaurants, and wish to continue social distancing. If you are one of those people, and you are about to return to the office, your concern for your safety is valid. So, how can you continue to protect yourself in this new environment? Ask for your employer’s Covid-19 Safety Policy and thoroughly read through it. Respectfully ask any questions you may have. Be clear that safety at work is important to you. If your company allows people to go without their masks, continue to wear yours and keep a bottle of hand sanitizer at your desk. When interacting with coworkers you can let them know your comfort level by saying something like, “I’m still practicing social distancing,” while taking a step back. Create physical space with your body and objects such as standing behind your desk or chair or reorganize your space to naturally promote more distance.
Take Care of Your Mental Health
Transitioning back to work may be more stressful than you anticipate. Signs of stress include shortness of breath, headaches, heaviness in your chest, raised heart rate, general body aches, and/or feelings of sadness, dread, or anxiety. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, please reach out to a mental health provider who can help you learn to navigate these feelings.
Your PCP is also a great resource. They can provide you with a questionnaire to complete to determine where your anxiety levels are at and prescribe a low dosage medication to help regulate your thoughts. It is strongly recommended to continue to see a mental health professional while also taking medications to help you learn how to navigate your thoughts in an appropriate and meaningful way.