Re-Entry To Work After COVID

By Patricia Haddon

Most Americans have worked remotely during the pandemic. The shift from office to home may have been abrupt with little transition or guidance. But, New Yorkers are remarkably resilient and we adapted. Now, with increased vaccinations and lowered infection rates, we’re facing another big period of adjustment. As New York reopens, companies plan to bring workers back to the office. The return to normal should be a cause for celebration! But, are we ready? We were forced to adapt in 2020, but the expectation to uproot our lives again creates new anxieties. How do we survive re-entry back into the workplace without burning out?

Houston We Have a Problem

For the past year, I’ve worked remotely on Planet Patti. Our departure from the office was sudden. I missed our team and I missed seeing our patients in-person. But, after a few weeks, I began to appreciate my new found freedom in t-shirts and jeans, minus the make-up and daily commute. I did not miss Spanx or the rats that live under the 4/5 train. For me, the greatest gift was time. The 2-3 hours that I spent getting ready for work and commuting both ways, now belonged to me!

Clients say they’ve had the same experience. Once they adjusted to the initial loss of their daily routine, they began to dig being the fife in their own fiefdom. Home all day with the dog, and casual strolls to the fridge, made up for the annoying Zoom meetings in sweats. Sure, we want the bars and restaurants to reopen. And, we’re starved for more stimulation than Netflix. But, that may mean abdicating the throne and wearing real pants again.

Commencing Countdown Engines On

Some companies have announced their dates for a full, mandated return to the office. Others redefined their business models to keep jobs permanently remote. However, the majority of businesses say they’ll return to a hybrid work week with a mix of onsite and virtual days. If you’ve come to appreciate the convenience and freedom of working at home but, still miss social interaction and your former activities, this could be the best of both worlds.

Now It’s Time to Leave the Capsule if You Dare

Re-entry to the workplace will present challenges, even for those who look forward to it. We still have little control over the uncertainty associated with the pandemic. But, making distinctions to concentrate on what we can control, and what we have to gain, will ease the transition. Here are some tips to reduce anxiety and guide you in managing change.

The quality of our life is greatly determined by:
1. What we focus on
2. The questions we ask ourselves
3. What we do with our physical body

Notice what you’re focusing on and become your own gatekeeper. Things that are negative grab our attention. We’re wired for survival and we notice anything perceived as a threat or potential pain. Great for survival but, it’s a problem when our brain acts like a runaway train and we catastrophize in the absence of danger.

Challenge your thoughts and ask better questions. Negative thoughts have a positive intent to protect and warn us. But, question if there is evidence of danger or if your negative thoughts are true? Usually, they’re just passing thoughts. Let them pass. Then, redirect your focus back to ask; What will be great about going back to the office? Who have I missed? What do I look forward to? If you keep asking that, your brain will answer. Unfortunately, your brain will also come up with answers to disempowering questions like, Why do I have to do this? Why does this always happen to me? So, ask better questions!

MOVE! The quickest way to change how you feel is to move your body! Exercise is great but, even short bursts of movement can raise your endorphins and lower cortisol levels. Blast some music and dance full out for 3 minutes. Take a 2 minute break to jump rope or do some jumping jacks. Intense movement interrupts negative patterns and changes your state.

One Giant Leap for Mankind

Going back to the office may feel like a giant leap. The pandemic has changed our world and we can only guess what the new normal may bring. One valuable lesson we’ve learned from COVID is: There are things that we can control and things we can’t control. Learn to focus on what you can control. But, know that all you can control is you.

Who do you want to be when COVID is over?

The time you save from commuting is a gift. Use this time to work harder on yourself than you’ll ever work at any job. You may leave a job. But, you will be with you forever. Invest in yourself. See your next challenge for what it is, but don’t picture it worse than it is. Then, envision what it could be and own it. There are opportunities in the worst of times. The gifts you fail to use today don’t die. They just find life in someone else as we’re left behind. So, seize the day! If you need support in making this a time of growth, learning, and self-empowerment, we’re always here to help.

To Life on Your Terms!