- As offices reopen across the nation, some employees are hesitant about going back to in-person work.
- Dr. Rachelle Scott, director of psychiatry at Eden Health, shared tips with Insider for people worried about returning to the office.
- Ease back into it slowly, communicate your boundaries and needs, and be prepared to feel more tired than usual as you adjust.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Many employers throughout the United States are asking their employees to return to the workplace. Unfortunately, concerns about the ongoing pandemic have created a dilemma for many: return to work and potentially risk the health of their families, or stay home and potentially risk the financial stability of their households.
In June, more than 6% of workers say they would quit their jobs if told to go back to the office for a full work week.
Dr. Rachelle Scott is the medical director of psychiatry at Eden Health, a direct-to-employer medical care provider, where she works with 40,000 employees across more than 100 employers. Over the past few months, she and her staff have seen more patients in therapy who’ve shared health and safety concerns about returning to in-person work.
Here are Dr. Scott’s top five tips for how employees anxious to return to work can ease their transition back into the office.
1. Gather information
Before returning to the workplace, Dr. Scott encourages gathering as much information as possible regarding any policy changes, safety integrations, and employee requirements.
“Employees should make sure they understand what is mandated of them – will they need to wear a mask in the workplace, be vaccinated to attend in person, test regularly, or socially distance once they get into the office?”
Additionally, Scott says, employees should have visibility into what their employers are doing to keep them safe, such as planned deep cleans, increased ventilation, social distancing, or rotating in office schedules.
2. Make a plan
To avoid increased anxiety on your first day back, take time to plan ahead. Practice your commute to determine if the travel time has changed, and plan for rest and personal time after work, such as with a workout session or dinner with friends.
Have self compassion and understand that it’s expected and acceptable to feel more tired as you adjust to new routines, even if they’re ‘old’ pre-pandemic routines.
3. Don’t be afraid to ask questions
Working from home has made employees and management more aware of their team’s personal lives, and Dr. Scott believes that this personal connection has created more open lines of communication that employees can use to voice their concerns.
“We’ve seen each other’s family, pets, and homes through countless Zoom conversations,” said Dr. Scott. “Having conversations with your managers about your household responsibilities is important.”
Specific questions could include: What specific precautions has management taken in the lead up to returning to work? Should workers expect desks to be the same as they were set up before? What exact requirements will employees need to follow in order to enter the office (masks, vaccines, etc.)?
“In general, I’ve seen that individuals have become more comfortable discussing these situations with their HR leaders as these conversations have become more commonplace.”
4. Ease back into it
If possible, try to ease back into in-person work by doing a few days in the office and a few at home. Ask other coworkers if they’d like to join you to get comfortable again working with others.
“This offers the opportunity for you to see what the physical space looks like, so when you do work for longer hours in the office, you can say to yourself, ‘I’ve been there, I’ve done this,'” Dr. Scott explained.
5. Communicate your boundaries and needs to your coworkers
It’s important to communicate your schedule and plans with coworkers and managers.
“There’s no one single formula or plan for how to do this,” said Dr. Scott, “but being as open about your schedule as you feel comfortable is a great way to set expectations. “
This includes communicating how comfortable you are with certain social greetings and interactions such as eating lunch with other employees.
Dr. Scott says employees should also use the transition back into the workplace as an opportunity to get to know coworkers with similar interests.
“If your company has affinity groups that align with your interests, join them. They can provide a great support system and way to bond with employees that have similar interests,” said Dr. Scott. “Let’s also think about what we may have gained over the past year and a half and what new opportunities may come with returning to work.”
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