How to deal with the mental health challenges of going back to the office.
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought a lot of challenges for employees working from home. As we are fast approaching the post-pandemic world, we have to start getting accustomed to heading back to the office again. No doubt, it is going to be difficult adjusting to the long-forgotten habit of getting ready early in the morning, putting on your finest work clothes, working till 7pm in your suffocating cubicle and dealing with horrible bosses and gossipy colleagues face to face.
Workplace stress is no laughing matter, and we intend to give you the best tips so that you can gain some insight into how to best protect and enhance your mental health and wellbeing.
Schedule meetings only during work hours
Schedule meetings to begin and end within your designated working hours. This will allow you and your clients to know with certainty that your “me time” after your standard hours of work will be protected. Block out times in your office calendars so that meeting organizers can be aware of your commitments.
Stop taking work back home
It’s easy to get into the habit of taking your work back home when faced with pressing deadlines. Make this a rare exception, rather than the rule. Only by keeping our work within the office will we have the energy to pay attention to our loved ones when we get back home or to get the rest we need after-hours to maintain a healthy work-life balance.
Switch off your devices from time to time
It is understandable to want to check our emails and messages for work updates even after normal working hours. However, it is important for employees and managers to ensure that endless email-checking wouldn’t be ingrained in the office culture. A report in the Academy of Management journal found that the expectation that you have to be available even during non-work hours is detrimental to your mental well-being and your health. We all deserve a break from work to unplug and de-stress.
Take regular breaks
Even when working in the office, you should try and take regular breaks. Taking breaks can help you re-focus and be more productive at work. You can try taking a break once an hour, leaving the office during lunch hour to get some air and stay refreshed during the afternoon or even just moving from your cubicle and walking around the office.
Show love to your employees
This one is for employers, supervisors and managers. Pay attention to your staff and see if there are any signs of stress or burnout, including unplanned sick days, frequent requests for time off, fatigue or reduced work quality. When you notice anomalies in your employees’ work patterns, encourage them to take more breaks, work from home, minimize their workload and avoid having them work overtime. Understand that overworking your employees will only increase their anxiety and reduce their overall productivity. Don’t be sparing with verbal and practical support to those who are feeling overwhelmed.
Explore flexible working arrangements
During the pandemic, some supervisors may have found that their employees worked more efficiently from home. Hence, they can maintain suitable flexible working arrangements even post-pandemic, as long as work can be done effectively. This means that managers should allow employees the option to work from home or somewhere more convenient instead of the office or work site. Employees may even have the option of flexible working hours, in which they can adjust their start or finish times for them to accommodate personal or family commitments.
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