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The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has changed how we work. And some will feel anxiety over leaving the comfort of working from home to return to the office.
However, a significant percentage of the American workforce is likely to continue to experience a combination of on-site work and remote work.
But despite this, for those with social anxiety, returning to your offices, for however short a time may still not be a pleasant prospect.
Thankfully, however, there are things we can do to overcome anxiety and ease our transition to working from offices again.
In particular, we can use time spent working remotely to address anxieties and concerns about returning to offices.
To that end, this post focuses on some of the most salient and actionable insights from cognitive and behavioral psychology.
And contrary to popular belief, insights gleaned from these disciplines are highly relevant and specific to everyday life, especially so in the context of how Covid has changed how we work.
Behavioral psychology focuses on the ways in which our environment influences and conditions our actions and mental states, whereas cognitive psychology focuses on how we can alter our actions and mental states by observing how we think.
Drawing from the best of these complementary disciplines allows us to address the internal and external factors that influence our mental health and overcome anxiety that the prospect of moving from remote work to prepare on-site work brings.
The common pitfalls of working from home
Are the bad habits we may have created in the comfort of our homes.
Observing your behavioral patterns while working from home will help you to identify habits that might hinder your transition to returning to the office and those that might help make an easier transition for you.
For instance, if you have been working predominantly from your bed or couch, you might find it difficult to readjust to your office environment.
Many of us find ourselves working from the bed or couch even if we have a dedicated workspace at home.
While this may be one of the luxuries of working from home, it is certainly not a good habit in the long run.
Not only can it affect your posture, rendering you vulnerable to the dangers of a sedentary lifestyle, negatively influence your mental state and eventually become a debilitating habit.
This in turn reinforces a prominent view of behavioral psychology: that our environment affects and conditions our actions and thoughts.
Set yourself up to overcome anxiety if you’re required to leave the comfort of working from home
Though working from the bed or couch may be comfortable at times, it is not necessarily the most conducive work environment.
In the long run, it can affect productivity and make you less efficient. In other words, an excess of comfort-seeking behavior can cause stress.
It may also not be possible to break this habit overnight, in which case we can turn to the insights of cognitive psychology.
First, it is essential to have confidence in one’s ability to overcome the habit.
A good way to develop this confidence is by developing affirmative thinking: by visualizing yourself achieving your goals and reducing negative thoughts.
Begin modestly. For instance, give yourself small targets at first and hold yourself accountable. You will find this a good start to enable you to overcome anxiety over returning to the office.
Initially, your target could be to spend thirty minutes at the table; once you are comfortable with the duration, work your way up from there. This way, you will be directly addressing a behavioral pattern and your associated mental state.
On the other hand, if you haven’t carved out a dedicated workspace in your home, remember that it does not have to be an elaborate set up.
A simple work table and a comfortable chair are all you need. If space is hard to come by, now would be a good time to declutter.
Actively identifying good and bad habits can help you overcome anxiety
In general, it would be beneficial to make a list of habits developed during this prolonged Covid-induced spell of remote work (this includes mental habits, too).
I recommend that you make a list of the good habits as well: ones that will hold you in good stead when you return to your office. Otherwise this can feel like an exercise designed solely to identify your bad habits.
For instance, you may have made a positive dietary change, or developed a note-taking habit, or gotten better at taking short, effective breaks from work. A good way to overcome bad habits is by identifying other habits you’d like to hone.
This is especially important since habits we may have developed to maximize our comfort while working from home may not always be applicable to working from the office.
Prioritize and give yourself time to transition out of these habits. This will take time, so don’t be too harsh on yourself.
Seeking professional help
However, if this seems overwhelming, seeking professional assistance might be helpful.
At the same time, try not to rely solely on therapy.
Use therapy as an additional tool to help you overcome anxiety for returning to your office.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy might be especially relevant in this context. This is of course not to suggest that this therapy might be useful for everyone.
As always, it is best to do some basic research before seeking any type of therapy.
I work at a local university. We WFH for a year and a half. Went back to campus in the fall. At first, I was anxious. I do not interact directly with students in my job, but I do use the same restroom facilities and classrooms are right across the hall from my office. For the most part, everyone has worn masks and respected social distancing. There really has not been a problem. So, my anxiety is completely gone.
That is so brilliant Debbie. Thanks for sharing your experiences that no doubt will help others who are reading this article. 🙂
Thankyou so much for the great info.
Thankyou so much for this.