More employees are heading back to the office for the first time in months as coronavirus cases fall, but that transition could bring on stress and difficulties for those who have already dealt with so much change to their routines over the past two years.
"We've surprised ourselves with how much we can adapt going from the workplace, and adapting to a home office, and figuring out schedules for the kids," Dr. Humaira Siddiqi, a psychiatrist at Kaiser Permanente in Burke, Virginia, said.
Siddiqi says the move to the office can come with a lot of mixed emotions, and it’s important to take inventory of what you’re feeling.
"Sometimes we force ourselves to stay very busy so we don't allow ourselves to experience what we're feeling and then we can't plan accordingly because the feelings just come out unexpectedly," she said.
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To help with the transition, Siddiqi says to rely on what has worked in the past.
"Trust yourself, develop that confidence that 'I do know how to do this,'" she said.
"You do know what works for you because you've done it a few times already."
Some people might be eager to reconnect with colleagues in-person, while others could be anxious, especially if they have young children who aren’t yet eligible for a vaccine.
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"You should be having conversations with your employers about how to best facilitate that smooth transition to work. Some people just aren't feeling ready or they're feeling burned out or they're feeling exhausted," Siddiqi said. "Creating that expectation not only of workplace safety, but a transition back into the workplace in stages."
Face mask and vaccination rules can also create challenges. Siddiqi says to reach out to your supervisor to voice your concerns so that together, you can come up with a strategy that works.
Ultimately, there are a lot of benefits to being back in the office, Siddiqi said.
"Nothing can really replace being face-to-face in front of someone and having a conversation that's in-person, getting those connections," she said. "There's a lot of isolation when you're working from home. So, you might not have to commute, but what you give up is that community, that connectedness."
Studies also show working in-person can boost creativity and improve concentration.