Return to the office bringing on the return of anxiety?

Uncategorized Feb 08, 2022

The day we’ve all been waiting for has arrived. At least in part. Life is tiptoeing back to normality. Most of us have been given the "backed-by-science” thumbs-up to return to work.

But we have been working, you say?

Well, yes, but now we’re allowed to return to our formal downtown office on the third floor and do things like sit around actual boardroom tables and strategise over filter coffee, choc-chip cookies and bran muffins.

With in-the-flesh colleagues?

Someone sound the alarm bells!

Does this mean we have to be 'seen,' unprotected by ZOOM filters, island life backdrops, or the pajama-friendly video ‘off’ button, and make light conversation between meetings too?

The truth is - this good news brings with it a downside because it requires change. And while they say change is always good, it doesn’t mean it’s easy. Going into the office is no longer the norm. We are being asked to adjust YET again. Many of us have become comfortable behind screens. At first, they were odd and awkward, and we were all ‘stately’ noses and squarer than square chins. Two years on, and we've perfected this new art.

Long and short? Back to the office anxiety is an unsurprising reality for many. You’re not the odd one out to feel like this, and here’s why:

  1. You may feel like you did when you started a new job.

Butterflies and nagging self-doubt can arise. A lot has changed, making this period one of transition. Transitions elevate our feelings of angst and uncertainty.

  1. Work relationships and ‘boundaries’ have shifted.

You may have seen your colleague share her plans for the new product launch while her blonde-haired cherub screamed in the background because he couldn’t reach his trainset. At that point, you realise he isn’t the picture-perfect angel, and your colleague isn’t as patient as you thought.

Perhaps we're all more 'real,' but regardless, we may need to adjust to our new perception of colleagues.

  1. You may have fallen in love with your work-from-home routine and feel anxious giving that up.

Perhaps you feel more productive at home, and no pointy leather shoe can trump your memory foam slippers. Making lunch is more accessible. You saw more of the kids – whether that's a good or a bad thing is a discussion for another day! Regardless, you are letting go of new routines and replacing them with your new 'old' way. That spikes anxiety.

  1. We didn’t sign up for this.

Latent crippling uncertainty, fear of financial security, frustration, and the yo-yo effect of waves are unprecedented. Is this how it will be, or will there be yet another change? Surreal is an understatement. It's little wonder why anxiety is running dizzying circles around us, and that doesn’t just switch off as we head back to the office.

Solutions are the same from management to office staff:

  • Cut yourself some slack, give yourself a grace period to adjust. Before long, you'll be arguing over who jammed the photostat machine again.
  • Cultivate gratitude. What you focus on becomes your reality. Instead of begrudging a long morning commute, why not celebrate the time this affords you to grow from a podcast, shindig to your favourite playlist or sip an on-the-go coffee? And that suit that has been sidelined for two years? Soak up that forgotten feeling of tailored professionalism.
  • Set an intention to really connect with a colleague or make a stranger’s day by earnestly asking how they are? Or send a dazzling smile someone’s way. If you’re really daring, maybe even a wink ;).
  • Practice acceptance and tolerance of others. Some may adjust faster or slower than you do. Be kind. Always be kind. Assume that everyone is doing the best they can with what they have. EVERYONE needs a dose of gentle and understanding right now – including the CEO!
  • Accept that some of your work from home routines are impossible to replicate. You may look odd unwinding on your office floor in a child's pose. Instead, you may need to take a walk outside with a colleague and breathe in some fresh air. Or consider these tools to increase your energy levels and manage stress. Conversely, you don’t need to give up on making healthy lunches – it just means doing them the night before.
  • Choose to consciously embrace the new (or new-old) opportunities to connect meaningfully with colleagues. Find joy in shared office banter and off-the-hook ringing of telephones. It all signals the close of what has been an exceptionally trying time for our world, and therein lies your reason to celebrate and rediscover your confident, effervescent mojo beneath the oversized track top.



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