Stressed About Returning to the Workplace?

Professional woman holding mug with the word "stress" on it

While some companies are opting out of lease renewals and getting rid of physical office space, others are moving forward with return-to-work plans.

A survey conducted by the staffing firm Lasalle Network of more than 350 CEOs, HR and finance leaders found that 70% of those polled plan to have employees back in the office by the Fall of this year.

However, what “back in the office” will look like remains to be seen. Will employees be required to return to the office full time? Or will they be allowed to work at home a few days a week and in-office on other days?

To help get a feel for what this new world-of-work might look like, Reset Work polled decision makers in all industries on the topic of returning to work. Their findings show that approximately 27% of companies have not yet committed to a specific back-to-the-office plan, but it appears that hybrid arrangements that mix both in-office and remote work are the more popular contenders under consideration (63%), with seven in ten respondents expecting employees to work in the office 2-3 days a week, on average. Just 6% of companies polled plan to be fully remote, and 4% plan to return to the office full-time.

According to the nearly 500 employers surveyed by Willis Towers Watson, a benefits consulting firm, 8 in 10 employers indicated that immunizations will pave the way to office re-openings.

As of May 20th, nearly 39% of the U.S. population had been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and more than 49% had received at least one dose, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A top concern for companies planning to reopen their offices is how to address working situations for those who are vaccinated but must work alongside those who have not been.

“A common strategy for employers is to make vaccines an easy choice for employees by first helping convince them to get the vaccine and then making it easy for them to do so,” said Jeff Levin-Scherz, Willis Towers Watson’s population health leader.

Another concern for companies planning to reopen their offices is how to manage the desires of those employees who wish to continue working remotely full-time.

A survey by the Pew Research Center found that, given the option, more than half of employees would want to keep working from home even after the Covid crisis subsides, whether they are vaccinated or not.

If you have been working remotely and your office is discussing return-to-work plans, you might be struggling with the thought of having to leave the comfort and safety of your home to go back to an office environment. 

In a recent article by the Cleveland Clinic, psychologist Susan Albers, PsyD shared that it’s not uncommon to have concerns about going back to the office. She refers to this as “reentry anxiety” and discusses the two main types of anxiety for those returning to work.

“The first form concerns safety. People are anxious that when they leave their house, they may unknowingly contract COVID-19 or possibly spread it. The second type is around social interactions. Over the past year, we have been social distancing and lost practice of how to meet with people in person, look them in the eyes and engage in everyday chitchat.”

While a little anxiety can be a healthy motivator, there are times when anxiety can be crippling. This is a big watch out for those employees facing reentry. So, while companies are preparing for a smooth transition back to in-person work, workers should be doing the same.

Below are some tips for those experiencing reentry anxiety:

  • Plan how you will address concerns with your employer or coworkers about office safety, social distancing, and more. Working through possible scenarios that might occur in the workplace can help you prepare for actual events.
  • Take small steps. Go back to your office prior to the official reentry day. Set up your office and stock it with things that make you feel more secure – extra face masks, hand sanitizer, sanitizing wipes and more. If your company allows it, perhaps you might put up a sign stating that you are still practicing social distancing and would appreciate that anyone approaching your work station respect this.
  • Try to put a positive spin on the situation. For me, it might mean that my home and work life will have separation – something that has been lacking for the past year.
  • Tidy and set up your workspace. Get some new pens, notebooks, bright paper clips, and bring in some plants to help reduce stress.
  • Spruce up your wardrobe. While we may have been working in leggings and sweatshirts for the past year, it’s time to get back to a more professional look. And, let’s face it, we feel more confident when we look good.
  • Get back to more healthy sleep habits. Set yourself up on a reasonable bedtime schedule so that the mornings won’t be so difficult!
  • Have a household meeting to discuss how your going back into the office might impact others. Have you taken on responsibility for the dinner, dishes and laundry during your work-from-home time? If so, it's time to delegate some of those tasks to others. Plan how you will address back-to-work lunches or dinnertime needs. Maybe it's a meal-prep Sunday, exploring new crockpot recipes or researching dinner-in-a-hurry ideas.

While it may be hard for those of us who have been working remotely for over a year to consider a back-to-the-workplace scenario, by taking the time to process our emotions and lay out a back-to-the-office reentry plan that we feel most comfortable with, we will hopefully feel more empowered.

For those who plan to request that they be able to continue working remotely, be prepared to talk specifics with your employer; showing data that demonstrates your ability to effectively conduct your business from the comfort of your own home.

“When you’re framing your pitch, get in the mindset that you and your boss are working on the same team to resolve a joint issue, not that you’re simply asking your employer for something you personally need”, says negotiations specialist Alexandra Carter.

Carter breaks down the negotiation formula this way: “Here’s my request, and here’s how we all benefit. Make sure you tie your ask in a way that is responsive to what the company needs.”

As companies lay the groundwork for future business, make sure you do the same. And, if a career change is on the horizon for you for one reason or another? Contact Ed4Career. We currently offer one of the largest proprietary career vocational certification catalogs available on the market today!


By Kris Powers | May 27th 2021

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