How To Prepare For The Return To Work – Forbes

As Covid-19 restrictions are lifted, more and more companies are requiring that employees return to work—at least in part. For example, Apple recently announced that it is requiring employees to return to the office three days a week starting in early September. Even Tik Tok, the popular short-video app, is asking its workforce to return to the office three days a week, citing that there is no substitute for personal collaboration. Yet, many employees are anxious about going back to in-person work.

According to a recent PwC survey, 70% of over 1,000 workers said that several factors are preventing them from wanting to return to work, with 51% citing fear of getting sick as their primary worry. For others, apprehension around using public transportation and having no reliable solutions for childcare or homeschooling are also concerns.

Perhaps in your case, returning to work is inevitable. And while you may have mixed feelings, there are practical ways to ease the transition.

Use visualization techniques

Psychologist Susan Albers-Bowling, PsyD, recommends mentally walking through common work scenarios to help you feel more comfortable. “Imagery is powerful in helping people to cope with anxiety-filled situations,” says Bowling. “When you do this, it’ll help you gear up emotionally.” She also suggests doing a dry run before your official return to work date. “Don’t jump right in. Put your toe in the water. Go back to your office before your official start date. Look around. Sit in your chair. Remember that a lot has changed in a year, so expect that things are not going to look or feel like they did a year ago.”

Update your workspace

Another way to prepare for the return to work is to revamp your office space. If you have been working from home for a year or more, chances are your office or cubicle represents the old you. Add new framed photos of loved ones to make your environment more comfortable and inviting. Studies have shown that people who work in a cluttered environment usually suffer from unrecognized stress and may feel overwhelmed by constantly searching for documents or navigating a messy laptop. So, clean out your drawers and throw away old files and paperwork that you don’t need. You might also want to stock your desk with things that can relieve stress, like a stress ball or a calming essential oil diffuser.

Establish a sleep schedule

Chances are, if you’ve been working from home, you’re accustomed to a more flexible schedule and perhaps waking up later. You may even have gotten used to the occasional afternoon nap. Prepare to return to work by creating a more regimented sleep schedule at least a week or two before your start date. While it’s tempting to return to your old habits on your days off, consistency is key. Wake up, eat meals and go to sleep at the same time every day. Going back to your previous schedule for even a day confuses your internal clock and makes it harder to adapt.

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Reach out for support

It’s been a traumatic year for everyone, so it wouldn’t be surprising that a return to work triggers preexisting conditions like depression or PTSD. And try not to put pressure on yourself to perform at peak-pandemic levels—at least not right away. If you’re experiencing intense anxiety or unable to complete daily tasks after going back to the office, you may want to talk to a coach or mental health professional. Also, don’t hesitate to speak to your boss about burnout. Getting back to a new routine will take time so just be patient with yourself.

Whether you’re returning to the office full time or just a few days a week, it may seem overwhelming at times. Try to focus on the benefits, like increased social interaction and improved productivity. By maintaining a positive outlook, setting personal boundaries, and practicing self-care, you’ll be able to ease the tension and make a smoother transition.


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