Updated: Mar 26
It’s 7 AM when the alarm clock buzzes out loud, forcing you to wake up from your cozy, comfortable slumber. As you say to yourself, ‘I’ll wake up in another two hours; there’s still time for the office,’ and crawl towards your phone to hit the snooze button, you suddenly realize you can’t afford to sleep any further. You have to wake up, wake up right now and come eye to eye with the one you have disregarded for so long: ‘2020s most ignored pieces of clothes in your wardrobe: your formal wear'. ‘Uh! Is this really happening?’
Sitting on the bed as you rub your eyes, trying to come to terms with reality, you begin to experience a familiar feeling, something like the one you used to get on the first day of school after a long summer vacation, perhaps! ‘I’ll be fine... I will see my colleagues face to face after what seems like an eternity, BUT what about the traffic snarls, the long commute, and no access to my bed for a 10-minute power nap - am I truly ready for this!’ As you battle this ambivalence, you realize it is 7:30 AM already, and you have just about 45 minutes to pack your lunch, get ready and get out of your house to jump into the metro/cab/car/auto/bus to meet your second home finally, ‘your workplace’ after the Covid19 lockdown. You anxiously jump off your bed, stomp your feet on the ground, and run as quickly as you can towards the loo - the day has just begun.
As Covid19 cases begin to diminish in India slowly, and as government announces relaxations of the national lockdown, many organizations have decided to return to work and begin operations offline. Indeed, the pandemic has been challenging, has left a profound impact on each of our lives differently, and has also considerably altered the way we work. It is only natural to feel a range of emotions about returning to work after a relatively prolonged period in such a scenario. While on the one hand, there may be a sense of normalcy associated with returning to work, on the other hand, one may feel anxious and worried. On that line of thought, this article offers four ways to take care of your emotional and mental health as you finally step out and transition back to work.
1. CHANGE IS SCARY, AND IT IS NORMAL TO FEEL A RANGE OF EMOTIONS
Returning to work after the pandemic restrictions is bound to provoke anxiety, fear, stress, or even uncertainty for some individuals. For those who found solace in being home during the pandemic because of the benefits it posed (for instance, individuals with care-taking responsibilities), a sudden shift may need another round of adjustment. Additionally, considering the pandemic isn’t over yet, some may even have concerns about venturing out in public frequently and being near people. In the current context, it is essential to understand that these feelings of uncertainty, fear, worry, and anxiety are valid and normal, and if you find yourself struggling, here’s what you can do to help yourself:
- Prepare in advance: You may want to plan ahead of time and arrange for assistance to substitute for care-taking responsibilities.
- Talk to your employer: If you have concerns regarding your health or any other issue, speak to your line manager to see if there is a possibility to make suitable arrangements for you at the workplace.
- Normalize talking about your feelings: Reach out to your colleagues and tell them how you are feeling. Your experience during this transition may resonate with others, and this might put you at ease.
2. GIVE YOURSELF TIME TO TRANSITION
Although you may have worked at your workplace for years, you will be moving into the familiar territory after almost a year, a place that might feel new. Moreover, for individuals hired during the pandemic who did not get a chance to visit their office, this experience may seem more daunting. While some may take relatively less time to adjust in the workplace, some may find it distressing. This could even reflect in one’s level of motivation, performance, and productivity at work. However, it is essential to acknowledge that settling into a new space or moving in after a long period will take some time, even if it is familiar.
- Set SMART goals for yourself: SMART is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely. A smart goal may help in setting objectives and in managing one’s performance and productivity. These goals are an effective way to structure and achieve your work goals and objectives.
3. REACH OUT FOR HELP
If you find yourself experiencing distress for a prolonged period (between 2 weeks to a month), speak to your line manager and communicate your concerns to them.
You may also try to:
- Make use of an EAP (Employee Assistance Program): Many organizations today provide access to an employee assistance program to speak to a trained mental health professional about work-related problems that impact performance, productivity, mental and emotional wellbeing.
- Contact a Mental Health Professional: If your organization does not provide EAP’s, try to reach out to a Mental Health Professional who can offer you professional support concerning your mental health.
- Speak to a trusted colleague: If you have a work friend or a colleague you trust, try speaking with them.
4. BEGIN PRACTICING NOW
Many individuals may have noticed a change in their routines, whether it has to do with one’s bedtime wake-up time or everything in between. It is a good idea to slowly start moving back to one’s pre-pandemic work-life routine or develop a new one based on the current context. This may provide structure to one’s life, and you may feel more comfortable the day you finally have to get back to work, offline.
Returning to work may be on the way but remember, we are still in the midst of a pandemic and are yet to come to terms with the experiences, shared or unique, we may have had over the past year. Of all things necessary, the most crucial here is to be kind to ourselves and others.