Coping with anxiety about heading back to the office

At the start of the pandemic last year, crowded office spaces vanished as companies sent employees to work remotely.

"That shift was really challenging for a lot of people because our organization, prior to COVID, was brick and mortar. We had meetings i- person in the office. Virtual meetings were not that common, so people had to get used to that," said Katie Androff, the VP of talent management at the Crisis Center Of Tampa Bay.

It's been a hybrid at the Crisis Center with some working in the building and others working from home.  

"A lot of our office staff shifted remotely. It's a unique situation because each department, each role is a little unique in what the demands are, so we've had to really work with leadership, staff to determine what meets the needs of those groups best, make those calls kind of as we go along," said Androff.  

But they've slowly been bringing people back.  

"Many of our folks have returned in some capacity. At this point, we did have a staggered approach. We wanted to make sure people were comfortable," she said.

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After a year of masking and social distancing, employees may be looking for assurances about health and safety. Being surrounded by co-workers again could be a little overwhelming.  

"So I would imagine things like anxiety around groups. I imagine social interactions are going to be very difficult to start off with for many people, particularly those who have not had fact to face interactions over the past year," said Clara Reynolds, the president and CEO of the Crisis Center Of Tampa Bay.

Employers can help ease the transition.  

"For supervisors, making sure you're taking time out of your schedule to really check in with your staff, making sure you're sitting down and having those conversations and starting those conversations with how are you doing and being very quiet as opposed to the outcomes or the measures or any of the business-related things," said Reynolds.

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And there are things employees can do to put themselves back into the daily routine.  

"Make a plan for having something to look forward to at the office. Maybe you connect with a co-worker ahead of time and you plan a coffee or you plan to do lunch together. Something so that you can associate a fun activity with something else that's causing you some anxiety. Sometimes pairing the two together will really help alleviate some of that stress," said Reynolds.  

And keep in mind the positives for returning to the office.  

"Mentally it does allow people to have that structure, that routine.  Most people thrive with that environment. They like knowing what they're going to do, what's expected. They have the interactions with their peers. They have the support system in place. They have leadership on hand and nearby if they need additional support or guidance", said Androff.  

Anyone in need of help can call the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay's 211 call center at any time. For COVID-19 emotional support, you can call 1-844-MyFLHLP

LINK: For more information about the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay