The boundaries, for many, are compromised, with burnout on the rise. The thought of going back to the office causes stress and trepidation for many owing to the fear of the virus, pondering over childcare options, worrying about the time in commute, etc.
These fears and uncertainties aren't irrational nor surprising given the many unexpected changes our brains have adjusted with, in the last one and a half years. This transition to 'back-to-office' life won't be easy for most of us as the impact of the pandemic on the psyche is intense. The drive, values, goals, fears and approach have shifted immensely and the overall psychological shift demands changes at work too. The workplace will never be the same again -- different, better; but not the same.
Engulfed in the fear of the next wave of the virus, with lesser restrictions, people are trying to resume normalcy. It is paramount to prepare ourselves mentally to get back to the office with passion and vigour and make it a successful transition. Here are some things to consider:Plan and rehearse
Planning helps in disarming anxiousness. Don't just rehearse a normal work day in your head -- put it on paper and then follow it. Wake up, dress up, have breakfast and plan the day as you normally would when going to the office. Understand the science of habits and operate accordingly. Give yourself the allowance to build new habits. You can visualize and write down what it is like to be at your workstation -- the files needed, access card, drawer keys, lunch, etc. This will help you to prepare better and feel more in control.
Be patient with others
It's okay to need time to readjust to the work, to mingle with teams and focus on productivity. Be kind and patient when dealing with co-workers, subordinates and seniors as they may all be going through their share of anxiety. Set out your expectations clearly. Pivot, if need be, to face challenges gradually. Find your space and also hold a safe non-judgmental space for others to sound-off their concerns while dealing with the transition. A supportive, flexible environment is essential to stoke performance.
Prioritise effective communication
At office there will be changes in the way people communicate due to the safety protocols and this would mean changes at workstations, cafe areas and other rules and regulations. These should be known and communicated to all through emails, messages and calls. In practice, know that there still may be people who would like to ignore the protocol but you should lead by example. Enforce the change through practice and effective communication. Do not let the new rules impair the connection or flow at work. Offer support wherever you can and ask for help when you need it.
Keep your workstations clutter-free so that you don't feel overwhelmed when you resume work in the office. Also, it is essential to keep our minds clutter-free. Journal your thoughts to keep overthinking at bay. Use breathing exercises, stretching and mindfulness as tools to stay grounded during the breaks at work. Place some happy colourful pictures around to keep stress away. Keep some plants around. Keep water and nutritious food handy to avoid dehydration or hunger for longer duration.
It is the ability to recognize when your attention is shifting to unproductive activities instead of planned tasks at hand. Attention management enables us to deliberately cut off from distractions and create opportunities that support our vision and goals. This can be done by being in the present moment, practicing mindfulness, finding the flow and maximizing focus on things that are essential for progress.
Be kind to yourself
Take it easy. Don't compare your coping skills with others around you. We all process things differently and it's okay to take a while to get used to the 'new normal'. Be honest to yourself about your feelings and take inventory of things you are struggling with. Be open to giving and receiving feedback. Communicate your boundaries to others and stick to it. Focus on solutions and you are sure to come out stronger. In case of extreme anxiety, be willing to seek assistance from an expert.
While getting back to office may be a breath of fresh air clubbed with apprehensions, it is imperative to ensure peace of mind, sound mental and emotional health along with all the safety considerations. The unpredictability has heightened our sense of adaptability and with resilience we can successfully navigate through this transition.
Remember, our mindset controls a lot in our lives. We can't control what happens outside but we can surely control the meaning we attach to all that and how we react/respond to each of those things. Use language and thoughts that are empowering. You aren't 'going back' to anything; you are 'going forward' in life. Focus on the momentum and not regression. Keep your energetic and emotional state high and you will be able to adapt to the environment with ease.