How to manage the transition from working from home to business as usual.

With easing restrictions meaning many Victorian workers are returning to the office for the first time in close to a year, the adjustment can be a considerable mental and emotional challenge.

Many of us have settled into a pattern of working from home and operating in a virtual office environment in order to minimise the spread of COVID-19. Returning to our physical workplaces with all of the associated demands that brings can put additional pressure on individuals so it’s very important that we take steps to prevent stress through some simple acts of self-care, and to recognise when we are feeling stressed or overwhelmed so we can quickly intervene to relieve it.

Clinical Psychologist at Epworth Clinic, Tamara Worotniuk offers these 10 tips for self-care to help ease the transition from home office to office work.

Maintain any positive habits you established while working from home

perhaps it was an early morning walk before you started work or the day, or a sit-down leisurely breakfast with a loved one. Try to keep up the things that you enjoyed doing as part of your daily routine when working from home.

Keep reasonable expectations of yourself

Maybe you were able to fit more into your day when you were working from home – it will take a while to get back into the groove of commuting and working in an office so be kind and patient with yourself during this transition period – after all, it’s just that – a transition period that will pass and things will feel normal again.

Prioritise sleep and rest

It’s likely that you’ll be more tired as you adjust physically and mentally to a changed working environment. Try to keep a good bedtime habit so you’re getting enough sleep every night to feel refreshed and restored in the morning.

Avoid information overload

A return to the office might mean an influx of new information to digest – new processes, policies and procedures for a ‘COVID-normal’ workplace, and an overwhelming number of announcements and emails. Address the information that is of high importance first and flag items that can wait for another time. Consider unsubscribing from some news feeds or subscriptions to reduce the amount of information you receive, at least until you feel on top of things.

Speak up

if something is bothering you at work or if you don’t understand a new way of doing things. It’s likely that there will be lots of changes to how things work in your office from before the pandemic. If you’re unsure of any new policy or process, or notice a potential problem, speak with your manager for clarity or to suggest a solution.

Give yourself a break

Even if it seems like your calendar is bursting at the seams, be sure to take regular breaks throughout the workday, including a proper lunch break. Take this time for yourself, or catch up with colleagues in a more relaxed setting where you can keep the conversation light. Try taking micro-breaks too – particularly between tasks. You could spend a minute mindfully paying attention to your breath, or focusing on the soothing quality of mindfully drinking a cup of tea, applying some hand cream or even taking a good stretch. For some relaxing mindfulness exercises, listen to the Moments of Mindfulness playlists created by Epworth Clinic.

Take things one task at a time

If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed by a mountain of work looming on your desk, focus on the task at hand and complete that before moving to the next one. You might even like to make a list of tasks in priority order (there are lots of online programs and apps that can help you do this) to help you keep on track with deadlines. You’ll also feel a sense of achievement as you check off tasks that you’ve completed.

Ask for help if you need it

If you’re feeling stress, worried or overwhelmed about your workload, let your manager or supervisor know that you’ve reached capacity and need some support.

Treat yourself

Allow yourself some rewards for making the adjustment back to office work. It could be as simple as buying yourself a magazine to read, having a coffee with a friend or a long bath in the evening. Make some time that’s just for you to enjoy it however you like.

Celebrate the positives

While there may be challenges in the short term as you re-adjust to office life, there are also lots of things to celebrate, such as re-connecting with colleagues, customers and clients, or even finally getting a break from being at home all day, everyday!

Epworth Clinic is a private mental health service in Camberwell, supporting a range of mental health needs through psychiatric consulting, one-on-one psychological therapy, inpatient therapy and outpatient day programs.

20 January 2021


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