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Everyone is starting to return to the office – here’s how that affects your mental health

The world is opening back up again, which has some of us nervous about going back to work. Here’s how to take care of your mental health after the pandemic.

The COVID-19 seems like it’s going on and on, month after month after month. And as the world adjusts to that reality, many of us are only just starting to head back to work en masse. After a year of major disruption, even something as simple as heading to the office can be a strain on our mental health. 

This is why we at UpTeam have put together some of our ideas and thought of some advice for those concerned about the impact of going back to the workplace might have on their well-being. A happy and healthy workforce benefits everyone, and we need to make sure we’re doing this right. 

Decide if heading back to the office is right for you

The first thing you need to do to figure out whether heading back to your workplace actually is the best thing for you right now. 

There are a lot of moving pieces to take into account when thinking about this. First and foremost, you have to reflect on where you are right now. Does going back to the office fill you with dread, anxiety, excitement? Have you developed a routine at home that you don’t want to disrupt, or are you waiting for the day like a kid for Christmas?

If you are feeling hesitant, you’re not alone. We’ve been through a lot this year, and many companies (like UpTeam) are making sure we’re able to accommodate where people are at. Discuss your options with your manager and your team – perhaps they don’t need all members back in the building right away and there’ll be more time for you to catch up. Perhaps there’s a backlog of tasks that only require remote work. 

Another thing to make sure you do is check the public health regulations in your region, as well as local case numbers. Some areas are less risk-prone than others, and knowing the data might put you more at ease and help you make the right decision. 

How to prepare for the transition

If you’re feeling ready to make the move, don’t feel like you have to rush. Switching up our work regimes so quickly can have adverse effects on our state of mind, so ease into it if you need to. One way to do this is to start working a few days a week in local cafes or co-working spaces – even just one day a week. It will get you back into the mindset of having people around (!) again, but without the pressure of the office. 

Another way to transition is to start having in-person meetings with your colleagues in public spaces if possible. That way you can start working together in-person again while still working mostly from home. 

This also gives a bit of time to figure out where your colleagues are at in terms of their personal approach to the pandemic – different people have different opinions on everything from lockdown measures to vaccinations to the degree of risk when numbers are low, and conversations about this kind of thing can get quite heated and stressful. To prepare to head back into the office, it might save you a headache (and plenty of stress) to figure out how your team wants to interact with each other beforehand. 

Through it all, even if you’re feeling chipper and ready to go, don’t overpromise or be too gung-ho when it comes to productivity back at the office. There may be more bumps along the way then you realize. 

How to regulate unexpected anxiety when back on the job

When you’re finally back in the office, make sure to cut yourself some slack. If you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed or anxious, remember to start slow. If you’ve built any routines since working from home, try to keep to them as much as possible – familiar rhythms can be soothing. 

When you’re building new habits, though, try to keep things simple at first. Trying to do too much at once can set ourselves up for failure…in front of our colleagues, no less. If you’re the ambitious type, begin with one or two things and then add on to them from there. Lean especially into tasks that make you feel empowered or lean into your values.

And last but not least: don’t give into pressure to be a powerhouse. We’ve just come out of a global disaster, no one is going to be on their A-game all the time. Listen to the signals your body gives you – if it asks for a bit of rest at home, take it. Eat your veggies. Get a full night’s sleep. Move your body (going from the car to the office doesn’t count). 

Some of us are going to take to the office like fish to water – others are going to need a bit more time or patience. If you’re feeling anxious or in a low spot, find healthy ways to express it. Keep close to your support networks, and don’t be afraid to have frank (though appropriate) conversations with your colleagues. After all, we’re all in this together. 

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