After a year of remote work, returning to the workplace can be a new source of anxiety for a lot of people. While the vaccine rollout has alleviated our fear of contracting the virus, the idea of a new post-pandemic normal can be daunting, even stressful.
Just as everyone has settled into the groove of working from home, here is yet another big change to face, another pace of living to adjust to.
Psychologists call this dread over an impending re-adjustment the “reverse culture shock” or the “re-entry syndrome.” And it is a normal reaction to have; it is okay to feel as overwhelmed as we were during the initial shock of the pandemic.
Mental health experts encouraged us to be mindful and gentle with ourselves during the global transition to a socially distanced and remote-working lifestyle.
That same consideration must be applied as the world gradually reopens and pre-pandemic norms, such as the daily commute and being in the company of people other than those in our quarantine bubbles, make their reappearance in our lives.
Considering The Costs Of An Unhealthy Work-Life Balance During The Transition
One of the most important considerations when returning back to work is whether or not you regard yourself as a workaholic. If you do find that you are spending most of your time working, regardless of the environment, your work and your home life might eventually be negatively affected.
Here are some key considerations to remember as a result of having a poor work-life balance:
- Fatigue – When you are tired, your ability to work productively and think clearly may take a hit. This may eventually impact your professionalism or lead to dangerous or costly mistakes.
- Poor health – If you are constantly stressed, it can worsen symptoms related to many medical conditions, cause you to eat poorly or not have enough physical exercise.
- Isolation – If you’re working too hard, you might be missing out on important family events or milestones. This may weaken relationships and cause conflict.
Remember, keeping yourself healthy is key to a productive yet fruitful career. Now we look at top tips to help you manage your work-life balance effectively.
It is best not to expect life to resume the way it was. Release the pressure of having to be ready to jump back into the old hustle. Be okay with making slow changes.
A year of remote working has fostered certain schedules and rituals that provide us stability amid general discomfort, and it’s all right to rely on them as we make our way back to the workplace.
Most industries are looking to adopt the hybrid workplace model for good, not just because most employees prefer it but also because of its productivity and cost-saving benefits.
Depending on your workplace policies, you can gradually adjust to dividing your workspace between your home office and your work office. A workweek could start with one or two days in the office first and the rest of it can be spent working at home.
Adjustments can be made down the line based on continuous communication between you, your colleagues, and the management.
Re-Open Lines Of Communication Slowly
Parents whose kids might also be returning to school in some capacity can apply the same feedback strategy. Though kids are resilient, it would still be a shock to them to be around other kids after more than a year of not seeing their friends. Plus, they have become used to having their parents around all the time, helping with school work.
This is exactly the same concept when getting back to work. It’s going to be a strange feeling sitting next to people again. Either way, ensure you maintain the bonding habits you formed when at work may have to be blended in with the ‘new norm’.
Be Mindful Of Your Own Needs – Keep Looking After Yourself – Relax
Hopefully, we have all picked up some self-care practices during the pandemic. Continue doing them during this transition period.
Check in with your body and with your feelings, and carve out essential alone time during the day when you can relax and breathe, even just for five minutes – this can reduce the risk of ‘burnout’ during the transition.
If journaling, painting, or other creative expressions have helped you center yourself in the past year, keep on doing them during your downtime or whichever activities most relax you.
Physical movement has become crucial in a period that, ironically, has restricted our movements.
If relaxing isn’t your thing, spend some of your alone time taking a socially distanced walk around the block to get your muscles warmed, your heart pumping, and your mind cleared. Set alarms in your phone to remind you during the day to step away from your desk and stretch. If it is safe to do so, start adjusting to working outside the home by bringing your laptop to a nearby café to do a couple of hours of work. It can be your early practice for going to the office again.
Take It Easy When Transitioning And Don’t Forget Pets
One of the most important rules for a healthy work-life – do it slowly.
Pet owners in particular, will also need to take into account their furry companions’ comfort when transitioning to the new normal. Since pets suffer from separation anxiety, a sudden change in routine can trigger less than ideal behavior patterns in them.
Keep up with your regular play, walk, and cuddle time with them, preferably in the morning to simulate a future schedule when you have to leave for work. This will also help provide your pets with the exercise and stimulation they need to burn off a good amount of their energy for the day.
Since you are familiar with their feeding and napping habits, start learning how to make your home comfortable for them even when you are not around. Have enough provisions of food, water, and toys available and accessible to your pets.
Another valuable tip to make your departures and arrivals less stressful for your pets: make them as boring as possible. Train your pets to remain calm by keeping calm whenever you need to step out for errands. That means no rushing around, no raised voices, no slammed doors. They will eventually learn that your leaving the house is a non-event.
Dare To Dream again
Fantasizing about your first post-pandemic moves can be a pleasant mental exercise too.
Plan a perfect day for when you can hang out with friends and family you have not seen in a while. Will you watch a movie? Have a cook-out? Create a vision board as well for your dream trip, your dream job, or your long-held desire to go back to school. It can be anything you want, as long as it gets your imaginative juices flowing again.
The realizations we have gained during the pandemic can help tremendously as we transition into working in the office again. They can also help us create what our new and hopefully better normal would look like: one where the people and activities that nourish us have equal importance as our work responsibilities.