While some people are still working remotely, many companies are implementing plans to bring employees back to the office to work. While this move may be optional for some, others may find moving back to an office space mandatory. Mandatory safety measures can also be put in place, such as wearing a mask or vaccination before returning to work.
Anxiety, fear and stress are all common feelings about returning to work as the pandemic continues. Uncertainty about the future, closeness to colleagues and the public, and nervousness about interacting with others in person after more than a year of isolation can further increase anxiety. But with a well thought out and clearly defined plan, you can be ready to switch back from working remotely to working in the office soon.
In this article:
Remote or in the office
For those sent home to work when the COVID pandemic hit, working from home has become their new normal. While some are eager to return to what they consider normal office work, those who have benefited from working from home may find it difficult to return to the office.
Benefits of working from home
In a recent survey Bankrate commissioned by YouGov, 89% of the 2,695 adults surveyed working from home saw at least one pro, or benefit, from switching from working in the office to working remotely. Half of respondents said a permanent shift to remote work gave them more freedom throughout the workday. Other advantages of working from home are:
- More time spent with family
- sleep more
- Improved mental health
- Lower living expenses
While saving money is a pro of working from home, it doesn’t outweigh the personal, but less tangible, benefits of no longer going to the office and no longer working in the office.
Disadvantages of working from home
Not all respondents saw the benefits of working from home. For 79%, working from home during any part of the pandemic after working in the office had at least one downside. The biggest drawback of working from home for these people is the lack of interaction with their colleagues. Other disadvantages of working from home include:
- More distractions and lower productivity
- Not as many opportunities for pay raises and promotions
- Negative effects on mental health
- Not having as many opportunities to use or obtain vacation days
Of those surveyed, 10% say they are less likely to keep their job if it were permanently changed to working from home.
Will employers require you to return to work?
Some employees have already been forced to return to the office, while others are waiting for their employer to make the announcement. With some exceptions, employers can require employees to return to the office. Of course, with a global pandemic still in effect, reasonable accommodations must be made for everyone’s safety.
These accommodations can vary from company to company, but some measures that employers use to make working in the office possible are:
- Mask Requirements
- Social distancing
- Vaccine mandates
- COVID test
- Frequent and thorough hand washing
- Development of policies and procedures for employee reporting and monitoring of COVID-19 symptoms
With flexibility and clearly defined protections in the workplace, those who are reluctant to return to work in the office can feel protected and safe.
Preparing for your return to the office
Whether you enjoy working from home or are ready to return to an office, many companies are preparing employees to return to work. While the Delta variant has postponed some employers’ return-to-work plans, others have already returned to work or are still moving forward to implement safe return to work plans. As you prepare to get back into the routine of going to work at the office, putting your own plan in place can ease the transition.
Health and security
Even if you are fully vaccinated, you can still get sick and spread Delta or other variants of COVID. For this reason, it is always advisable to continue to apply the safety instructions when possible, especially in public spaces where there is a significant or high potential for transmission. It is also essential to follow any policies or procedures put in place by your employer if you are called back to the office.
Here are some COVID prevention tips you can use in the workplace:
- Keep hand sanitizer at your desk and use it as needed.
- Continue to wear a mask according to CDC adviceespecially when surrounded by other people.
- Wash your hands often and avoid touching your eyes, mouth and nose without washing your hands.
- Avoid close contact by maintaining at least six feet of distance between yourself and others.
- Stay home if you are sick and report any symptoms to your employer.
- If you must sneeze or cough, cover your mouth and nose with a tissue to avoid spreading germs to others.
Returning to work means commuting between office and office again. Whether you dread the journey or are ready to return, the time to get over it starts now. Consider using a practice day to see how long your commute takes now, and be sure to set a schedule to restore your office routine after so much time working from home. Here are some other tips to consider before resuming your journey to the office.
Update car insurance
When working from home during the pandemic, you may not have had to drive as much. Suppose you leave your auto insurance lapse or reduced your auto insurance coverage to reflect your lack of a daily commute to the office. In this case, you may want to update your policy before your ride starts again. Make sure you have valid insurance with the right amount of coverage in place to protect yourself and your finances when you get back to cruising the roads. If you are unsure what changes might be necessary, contact your insurance company.
Automotive Safety Checklist
You may also want to review any plans you previously had in case you have an incident on the road. In case of an emergency, you should have the following items in your car at all times:
- car jack and spare tire
- Jumper cables
- Reflective flares or triangles
- Window breaker/seat belt cutter in the event of an accident
- Flash light
- car phone charger
While some may struggle to maintain a healthy work-life balance while working from home, the mere thought of returning to the office is enough to worry some employees. Fear, stress and anxiety can affect your mental well-being, making getting back to the office that much harder. By employing proven tips for calming your anxiety, you can ease your return to the office by creating a supportive environment both mentally and physically.
Consider putting these CDC mental wellness tips into practice for returning to work:
- Take plenty of breaks throughout the day.
- Take sick or vacation days as needed.
- Meditate, practice mindfulness, and participate in activities like tai chi and yoga to reduce stress and improve relaxation.
- Review return-to-office policies and procedures so you can anticipate changes without getting overwhelmed.
- Exercise regularly.
- Get a good night’s sleep of 7-8 hours per night.
Most importantly, discuss your plans for a safe return to work, both mentally and physically, with your manager. Sensitizing them to potential challenges could allow you to work together to achieve a smooth transition to office life.
State-by-State Return to Office Guidelines
Each state has different rules and regulations to help guide the return of the workforce to the office, and Bankrate has provided a link to your state’s guidelines.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you take time off work for burnout?
Each job has different requirements, but for your well-being, you may want to take time off work to avoid burnout. Stress leave is a real thing, and with so many variables involved in returning to the office during a global pandemic, employers should prioritize the mental health of their employees if they want to keep them. That said, not all businesses will operate this way. Setting expectations with your manager before returning to the office could help you better manage the situation if you find you need time off.
What are the signs of burnout?
There are several physical, emotional and behavioral signs of burnout. Feeling exhausted and tired most of the time, having frequent headaches, and a change in sleep patterns or appetite are physical signs of burnout. Emotional signs include detachment, feelings of helplessness, being trapped or defeated, loss of motivation, a growing negative attitude, and diminished satisfaction. Consuming alcohol, drugs, or food to cope, venting other people’s frustrations, isolating yourself and procrastinating or taking extra time to get things done are behavioral signs of burnout.
How do I tell my boss that I need time off?
If you have to tell your boss that you need time off, you must first do some research to understand what your legal rights to time off and pay are at your company and in your state. Apply in person and, if possible, give advance notice. Keep track of all relevant documents and work with your employer to create a plan you both agree on regarding your absence and return to work.
Can’t an employer let you call in sick?
Depending on where you live and the employer, they may not let you call in sick or force you to use paid time off to do so. However, during a global pandemic in which you may have COVID and spread it to others, most employers follow CDC and OSHA advice by encouraging employees to stay home when they feel sick, especially if they are showing symptoms of COVID. You’ll probably want to take the time to understand your company’s rules and guidelines regarding sick calls before returning to the office.
Can your boss deny you a mental health day?
Whether your boss can deny you a mental health day depends on your condition, your company, and its vacation policy. If you have a diagnosed mental health problem, you are protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). With so many people suffering from mental health symptoms due to the pandemic, many businesses are rethink their employee assistance programs to help those returning to the office who need mental health accommodations. But again, take the time to understand your company’s guidelines so you know what to expect before returning to the office.