Tips for returning to the workplace

Returning to the workplace after working from home will be a big adjustment. 

Many employees have been working from home since March 24, 2020. That was when the provincial government announced the mandatory closure of all non-essential workplaces to contain the spread of COVID-19. 

This closure was put in place for 14 days and extended as the pandemic evolved. 

For some, this work-from-home situation was strange, and for others, it was more than ideal. 

Many companies have adapted over the past year. The need to go back into the office for five days a week may become a thing of the past

As Ontario moves into Stage Three and restrictions lift, more employees will have to go back to work.

Whether you are going back in person full-time or adjusting to a hybrid model, the transition may be difficult. 

These simple tips will make your return a bit easier. 

Take care of your mental health

More than half of Canadians reported worsening mental health since the pandemic began. This is according to a Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) survey conducted in July 2020.

Similar results were found in another CAMH survey of Canadian workers. 81 per cent of respondents reported the pandemic was negatively impacting their mental health. 

The pandemic has had a negative impact on more than just people’s work lives. Many are struggling with the uncertainty of their own health and their loved ones’ health. 

There are also financial concerns and concerns about the social isolation imposed by quarantining and physical distancing. 

Workers are also feeling anxious about returning to the workplace. 

More than 70 per cent of Ontarians believe the province will experience a “serious mental health crisis” following the pandemic. This is according to a Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) report

Before returning to work, check to see what your organization has put in place to help you adjust. Many employers recognize mental health is as important as physical health.

  • See if your company offers an Employee Assistance Program (EAP). Through the program, you can ask to be referred to a mental health professional.
  • See what your company insurance plan covers and what benefits they offer. You may have coverage to see a psychologist, psychotherapist or social worker. 
  • AbilitiCBT offers free online cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) to Ontario residents. The program can help with anxiety symptoms related to the pandemic. Services include therapist-guided virtual therapy and CBT programs.
  • There are also several mental health resources available in Ontario free of charge. The Ontario Ministry of Health provides a COVID-19 resource sheet, and the CMHA has a Return to the Workplace Toolkit
Photo by RF._.studio

Get back into a routine

Creating a schedule and routine can help you prepare for your return to the workplace. Routines can help you stay motivated and on track. 

To make the in-person transition easier, begin practicing morning routines. Give yourself time to re-learn what your pre-pandemic mornings used to look like. 

How long is your commute? Will you be showering in the morning? Will you be packing your lunch? Do you have a dress code?

You can also reach out to your employer about what to expect when returning to the office. Will your company be extending their work from home policies? Will they be implementing a more hybrid approach? Should you expect health screenings or smaller offices? Your employer may have put guidelines in place that you will need to follow, at least in the short term. Being familiar with your work’s new protocols and procedures will help you prepare for your routine.

Preparing for these variables can help you stick to your schedule and ease the anxiety associated with your return. 

Incorporate self-care practices into your daily routines as well.

Well Being Waterloo has self-care tips and resources. These include strategies like box breathing and stress management models. 

Try to keep positive

Focusing on the positives can lessen the stress that comes with the changes of returning to the workplace.

It can be hard to give up the flexibility and ease of working from home. Try to reframe things in an optimistic way to help soften the transition. 

Seeing coworkers will help rebuild those social connections you may have lost during the COVID-19 lockdowns. The workplace may also have fewer distractions than working from home. 

Going back to the workplace also creates a stronger boundary between your home and work life. It allows you to follow a stricter schedule and leave work at the workplace at the end of the day.

Whether you are returning to your workplace full-time, part-time, or you aren’t returning yet, keep these tips in mind. Staying optimistic, maintaining your mental health and setting a routine will help you ease back to the workplace.

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