Going Back to Work After Coronavirus Lockdown: 5 Ways to Thrive
As shelter-in-place orders relax and people start returning to work and everyday life, we’re finally saying goodbye to cabin fever. But COVID-19 isn’t gone, leaving many of us with questions while going back to work or searching for a new job:
- Is it safe to go back to work?
- What things should we take into consideration when going back to work or looking for a new job?
- How can we manage anxiety, stress, overwhelm, or rejection when returning to work or searching for a new job?
Below, I’m sharing 5 strategies to help you and your family stay well and thrive during this period of transition.
1. Accept that things may be different
While being able to go back to work can be a reassuring sign of improvement for both your life and the economy, it also doesn’t mean that everything will be perfect as soon as you walk in the office doors.
You may still be anxious about personal issues (the risk of getting sick, financial troubles, finding childcare, etc.), overwhelmed about being in close quarters with others after months of social isolation, less enthused than before about work, or missing coworkers who have been laid off.
To combat these negative feelings, try to remind yourself that change is a natural part of life. More than that, change can be great: getting outside of your comfort zone often leads to exciting opportunities and a new appreciation for aspects of life you previously overlooked, such as the ability to catch up with coworkers in person.
Your new work routine (or even your job itself) may not be exactly the same as before coronavirus, but recognizing that change can be positive–and that you have the ability to adapt to anything that comes your way–may soothe some anxiety about returning to work.
2. Develop resilience
In “Coronavirus: 5 Hidden Positives the Media Doesn’t Talk About,” I explain how important developing resilience–the ability to get through difficult circumstances–is during coronavirus. Resilience can help us stay mentally healthy and ward off negative feelings like anxiety, isolation, and depression.
Fortunately, resilience is a skill that anyone can develop. If you’ve lost a job or are going through financial difficulties, use the following tips to dust yourself off and push through what feels like a hopeless situation. You can come out on the other side stronger than before.
- Embrace change.
- Know that hope isn’t lost. You’ve made it through hardships before and you’ll do it again, so it’s best not to focus on the negative.
- Practice optimism. Reflect on your skills and achievements, allowing yourself to feel confident about your past successes and those you can accomplish in a future job with those same traits.
- Understand yourself and your needs. Practice self-care.
- Look at what is causing you worry and stress, and then tackle those things. For example, if you’re worried about your health, take action to stay healthy–eat healthy foods, exercise regularly, and sleep enough. This could assuage your worries and leave your mind calmer.
- Lean on your support network.
- List achievable goals and break them down into actionable steps. These may be personal or work objectives. Setting realistic goals leads to progress and keeps your spirits up, which encourages further excitement about the future.
3. Work where you’re comfortable
Being able to go into work again can’t come soon enough for some, but others are understandably still wary about venturing into public due to health concerns.
Assess how comfortable you are with physically going into a workplace. What specific worries do you have about rejoining the workspace? Has your company (or the companies you’re applying to) put sufficient improvements in place to protect employees as much as possible?
If you’re not comfortable with your current employer’s response, speak with your manager or HR department about other arrangements. If you’re applying to a new role, speak to your recruitment contact about what preparations the company has put in place.
Don’t be afraid to have a discussion about flexible working arrangements, especially if you are immunocompromised or have close family members who are at risk. It never hurts to ask about working shifts that avoid high-traffic office hours or working from home. If you do end up working from home, use tip #4 to set yourself up for success.
4. Set boundaries between home and work
While working remotely can minimize the health worries of being among a large group of coworkers, it provides its own unique challenges. The two biggest issues people come to me about are:
- The blurring between work time and home time
- Feelings of isolation.
Without an option to physically leave the office at the end of the day, many of us tend to put in longer hours and feel like we’re constantly “on.” To combat this and protect your mental health, establish boundaries.
For example, try an “office hours” schedule with built-in breaks, a lunch hour, and a specific time to clock out. A good routine will ward off burnout. Along the same lines, blocking off 15 minutes to transition from the job mindset to a home mindset at the end of the workday can also smooth your mental shift towards relaxation time.
Think about it as time you’d normally spend driving home and decompressing from the day. Incorporate relaxing activities that typically help you separate yourself from work, such as listening to music or taking a rejuvenating walk.
5. Reach out for support
As coronavirus lockdown relaxes, it’s important to recognize that this is still a chaotic time and you may need extra support. If you need help getting through these uniquely challenging times, I’m available for virtual telehealth sessions using Zoom to discuss:
- Overwhelm (lack of consistent schedule)
- Panic disorders
- Social isolation and loneliness
- Parenting challenges
- And more
I offer flexible scheduling to fit your needs. Please schedule your virtual telehealth appointment with me today.