Going Back to the Office During a Pandemic? Here’s Some Help
Experts say getting back into a routine, if possible, can help. At first, Todd’s company will follow a hybrid schedule, leaving a few days of work at home.
While some events in the office may be mandatory — like a company-wide meeting — workers can determine if they have the opportunity, for example, to attend by phone from a separate room, Wen suggested.
Even if employees must attend a company-wide meeting in person, she says, they can visit a crowded cafeteria at lunchtime.
And “you don’t have to go to happy hour at a bar shoulder to shoulder with people,” she says. “You can say no, especially in optional situations.”
Some of the anxiety stems from a general uncertainty about what a return to “normal” would entail, says Cheryl Procter-Rogers, a Chicago-based coach. Recently, she has been hearing concerns from clients.
Go back to the office like Covid is gone, test positive, and spend the weekend in bed. That’s what happens pic.twitter.com/faiPyuydtR
— Flora /codeNewbie @ 50+👩💻 @ 🇳🇱 (@FloraSchouten) March 26, 2022
“One of them said to me, ‘How do I know that the person at the boardroom table is vaccinated?'” she says.
She said this is one of many situations workers will need to figure out how to deal with.
Procter-Rogers said some of the anxiety is related to career or lifestyle issues, such as hesitancy about whether to return to one’s job, especially if it means giving up some of the perks people enjoy at home.
Some clients told her that they were accustomed to approaching their partners in the middle of the day and suggesting a little outing.
“These opportunities deepened the relationship,” she says. “Some are wondering if they want to give it up.”
According to Procter-Rogers, simple things like physical activity can help whatever the source of anxiety. “It’s also essential that people have someone they can talk to,” she says, a friend, spouse, coach, or therapist.
Asking for help works, as Todd discovered. He joined a grassroots education, research, and advocacy group for information and support. He appreciated the help she provided so much that he asked how he could thank her.
“They said, ‘The best thing you can do is tell your story.’ And so he does. “It helps my mental health and optimism,” Todd says.