'Back To Work' (At The Office) Blues ?
Some thoughts on how to manage 'Back-to-work anxiety' after working from home through the Virus pandemic.
The silver lining to 2020's pandemic for many people was the opportunity to take a step back from the rat race and work from home.
But with the economy whirring back into gear and staff being asked to come back into the workplace, return-to-work anxiety is a very real phenomenon.
"It was like starting a new job again and I didn't like that because I really became used to having the autonomy of doing what I had to do on my own, and not having to perform in front of others," says Lucy.
She had only just started her job in March and had barely met her colleagues when, like tens of thousands of Australians, she was directed to work from home as the Virus started spreading across the country.
Fortunately Lucy found herself enjoying her new working conditions, finding a balance between work and life, and managing to increase her output due to a lack of "open-plan office place distractions".
"I was also concerned about catching public transport when we came back, and I wasn't really trusting how well other people returning to the office were practising safe hygiene and doing the right thing by continuously sanitising and things like that," she says.
Being concerned is common:
Beyond Blue lead clinical adviser and GP Grant Blashki says such fears are a "common phenomenon" among his patients.
"On one hand, people are excited and relieved, but then many have trepidation with a mix of concerns," Dr Blashki says.
"Some are concerned about infection, particularly if they are older or have a disability; some have pre-existing social anxiety and have lost their social stamina to interact with people.
"But I differentiate between people who have more serious social anxiety issues, and those who have lost their mojo and are getting ready to adjust.
"Because for some, there's been that silver lining story, when they've enjoyed the time at home and getting out of the rat race with more time for reflection and families, and now they're having to get back on the train."
Anticipation is likely worse than reality:
Psychiatrist, doctor and Australian Medical Association SA vice president Michelle Atchison says some people may be "very keen to get back into the workplace", while others may feel angry about it.
She says COVID pushed "touch points of anxiety" for a lot of people around their work and daily lives, with mental health presentations across the country increasing by about 30%.
"People got the message that staying away from crowded places is what we needed to do so we did not get COVID, get very sick or die," Dr Atchison says.
"Then they say 'OK, you have to come back to work and be around people', so of course it's something that makes people feel anxious."
Story By | Malcolm Sutton