Experiencing ‘Return Anxiety’ in the workplace?
Returning to the Workplace
Since 2020, it has been over 2 years since Singapore started a hybrid mode of working from home and working in office. With the adjustment of Disease Outbreak Response System Condition (DORSCON) level from Orange to Yellow on 26 April 2022, there are no more restriction for social gathering. Thus, employees in organisations are allowed to return to their offices every day. However, it affects employees differently. Some employees enjoy the new normal but some employees experience ‘return anxiety’.
Readjusting to the ‘New ‘old Normal’’
You might think that we are just returning to how it was pre-pandemic; we should be accustomed to it. Hence, it is not that big of a change. However, that is not entirely true. A survey conducted by The Straits Times revealed that 10% of respondents were willing to live with the COVID-19 restrictions beyond two years. This group may have feelings of anxiety when returning to the workplace – a reaction some experts have termed “re-entry anxiety” or “return anxiety”.
All of us have spent the last 2 years living in a COVID-19 pandemic era, going through the routine of social distancing ourselves in public. So much so that when we return to the workplace, even minimal social interactions with our colleagues will make us stressed at work.
Reducing Return-to-Work Anxiety
The Distress Cycle
To help reduce anxiety and stress and prevent a loss of productivity, we can attempt to break the distress cycle by the methods of identifying, monitoring and controlling workplace stressors.
Some people are afraid of interacting with others, including people who may not be vaccinated or are not respecting public health measures. It becomes the main stressor which causes ‘return anxiety’. Thus, that’s why public support like wearing a mask while indoor and staying home while sick is still important and necessary. Supervisors shall remind their staffs; schools shall remind their students if non-compliance occurs.
Some people are used to the lifestyle with remote work and feel stressed if the working mode is switched suddenly. It is more beneficial to promote work-life balance, work at a reasonable pace, and avoid overtime as much as possible. If there is difficulty in coping deficiencies and increasing productivity, a timely communication and consultation with supervisors is also helpful to make tasks and assignments more manageable to break the distress cycle.