AZ Health Professional Offers Advice on Managing Return to Office Stress
Monday, March 28, 2022
With COVID cases waning, more employers are asking workers to return to the office for the first time since the pandemic began, and mental-health professionals said there are ways to manage the stress and anxiety from this big change.
Rates of anxiety and depression among U.S. adults were four times higher between April 2020 and August 2021 than they were in 2019, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Deborah Shoman, a licensed clinical social worker based in Phoenix, said many of us struggle with change, both positive and negative. She noted although we cannot always control stressful situations, we can control how we think about them.
"We also need to focus on basic self-care, which often gets forgotten when we begin to feel overwhelmed," Shoman pointed out. "So making sure that we go to sleep at the same time each night and get up at the same time each morning. And evaluating the need to modify that schedule if we're not feeling rested."
Shoman added people can use the time during their commute back into the office to manage stress by engaging in affirming statements about their lives and jobs. She suggests listening to podcasts and audiobooks about stress management or relaxing music.
Dr. Nicole Brady, chief medical officer for United HealthCare employer and individual for Wisconsin and Michigan, said fears around catching COVID at the office can also be a trigger for stress. She urged having an open line of communication with your employer about what protocols are in place to prevent spreading the virus.
"We all know that masks are effective and certainly are reasonable at any time, despite what the levels may be in your community at that time," Brady stressed. "We know that vaccines are highly effective at preventing infection."
Other tips included suggesting staggered work hours or days to your manager, to limit the number of people in the office at one time. The CDC recommends employees experiencing COVID symptoms notify their supervisors, get tested, and stay home until they feel better.
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