How to Take Care of Your Mental Health When Navigating a Return to Office

Now that the world has emerged from the grip of the pandemic, many employees are finding themselves facing a new challenge: the inevitable return to the office. After months or years of remote work and the newfound flexibility that came with it, the prospect of returning to the traditional office setting might evoke a range of emotions, from excitement to apprehension and even fear. 

For those whose employers are mandating a return to in-person work, knowing how to handle this change is key for a successful transition. In this blog, we explore strategies that will help you maintain your well-being as you navigate the shift from working from home to the office environment.

How Has Working from Home Helped Us?

One of the reasons so many people fear returning to the office is because they simply feel better working from home. A study by Bonin showed that up to 93% of the employees surveyed wanted to have the option of working from home even after the pandemic ended. The reasoning behind this is that they reported increased subjectively perceived productivity, a greater sense of job satisfaction, better work-life balance, and higher autonomy. 

Overall, many people seem to feel that they are functioning better with the ability to work from home. Losing this ability means a decrease in their perceived autonomy and satisfaction, which can be worrisome.

Take Inventory of Your Emotions

The first step in managing any kind of significant change is acknowledging your emotions and taking them in stride. It's completely natural to feel a mix of dread and even resistance as you contemplate the return to the office. Particularly for those of us that are introverted, working from home has provided a sense of comfort and solace. 

The idea of losing this comfort can be downright scary. Take time to reflect on these feelings without judgment and let them come as they may. You might also consider starting a journal to jot down your thoughts and feelings, which will allow you to gain a clearer understanding of where you are mentally.

Build a Functional Routine

One of the many benefits of working from home was the flexibility to create a personalized routine centered around what works best for you. While the return to the office will inevitably reduce some flexibility, it doesn't mean you can't establish a new routine that supports your mental health. Begin by designing a morning routine that incorporates activities you enjoy, like a short workout, meditation, or a healthy, nourishing breakfast. This will help you set a positive tone for the day ahead and give you a sense of control over your time.

Take Care of Yourself

Self-care is a cornerstone of maintaining good mental health, and letting it fall to the wayside as you return to the office is bound to cause issues. Even as you cope with the transition back to work, make a conscious effort to prioritize self-care in the form of activities and practices. Whether it's reading a book, taking a leisurely walk during lunch, or indulging in a hobby, carving out time for yourself is going to be important for recharging and staying in a good mental space.

Create an Ergonomic Workspace

While the office environment may be less familiar after months of remote work, you can still make your workspace more comfortable and conducive to a positive mindset. Personalize your desk with photos or calming decorations that can give you a sense of comfort. Bringing a touch of home to your workspace can help create a sense of familiarity and ease any potential discomfort. 

You’ll also need to make sure your workspace is comfortable for your body as well. Going back to an office setup is often less cozy than your home setup may have been. Don’t be afraid to invest in a supportive chair or any other staple pieces that will help you create a comfortable workspace.

Stay Connected with Others

The social interactions that naturally occur in an office setting can positively impact your mental health, especially if you are extroverted. When in the office, work on maintaining connections with your colleagues by scheduling regular catchups or meetings. These interactions not only provide social support but also help create a sense of belonging and camaraderie. For those that are more reserved, make time to see friends or family when you are not at work in order to relieve stress and allow yourself to get that vital social connection in a way that is comfortable for you.

Don’t Be Afraid to Speak to Your Boss

If you're experiencing apprehension or concerns about returning to the office, don’t be afraid to have a conversation with your employer. Many companies understand the importance of employee well-being and might be willing to accommodate specific needs or offer flexible arrangements. 

Expressing your thoughts and needs can lead to a more supportive work environment. In fact, some employers are willing to allow hybrid work models for those that request it. While this is entirely dependent on the company, it could be an option at your place of work. Without having a conversation, you will not be able to determine if this is the case. Even working from home 1-2 days a week can be a nice way to break up the monotony of the office and allow for some flexibility.

Manage Your Expectations

As you reintegrate into the office, it's important to manage your expectations. Recognize that the transition might not be entirely smooth, and there may be moments of discomfort or adjustment along the way. Be patient with yourself and allow room for adaptation as this is a considerably large life change. It's okay to ask for help or guidance if you're struggling – whether from a colleague or another trusted person.

Create Space Between Work and Home

Returning to the office might blur the lines between work and personal life, especially if you've become accustomed to a more flexible schedule. To maintain a healthy work-life balance, establish clear boundaries from the get-go. Set designated times for work, breaks, meals, and personal activities. Avoid the temptation to overwork or constantly check emails outside of working hours, as this can lead to burnout and negatively impact your mental health. It might also create friction at home with your family. Clear boundaries between work and home are important for everyone.

Move Your Body Often

This we know for sure: physical activity plays a massive role in maintaining mental health. Even with a return to the office, you will need to find ways to incorporate movement into your day for the sake of your body and mind. Whether it's taking the stairs or going for a walk during breaks, staying active can boost your mood, reduce stress, help you sleep better, and make you feel happier throughout the day.

Returning to the office marks a significant shift in the work landscape, one that can impact your mental health in various ways. By acknowledging your emotions, prioritizing self-care, and adopting strategies to navigate this transition, you can maintain your mental well-being and thrive in the new office environment. Remember that you have the power to shape your experience and create a workspace that supports both your professional growth and your mental health.

We Can Help!

Online Treatment Programs provides Teletherapy Partial Hospitalization and Intensive Outpatient Programs allowing participants to receive intensive therapy with our licensed therapists and psychiatrists without having to leave home.  If you or someone you know is struggling to overcome depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, trauma, panic attacks, PTSD, alcoholism, drug abuse, or other mental health or addiction issues, we can help.  To schedule a complementary assessment or to find out more about our teletherapy programs, contact us at 1-800-685-9796.

MHThrive provides Individual Therapy, Couples and Marriage Counseling, and Family Therapy at our locations in Katy, The Woodlands, and the Clear Lake area of Houston, Texas. We also provide telehealth therapy for anyone who resides within the State of Texas. To schedule an appointment with one of the MHThrive therapists, contact us at 713-477-0333 or visit our website to learn more.

If you or someone you know is experiencing any severe mental health or substance abuse issues, New Dimensions can help. Our team of experienced therapists and psychiatrists can help you overcome these challenges and help you develop the skills you need to thrive. To schedule a complementary assessment or to find out more about our programs, contact us at 1-800-685-9796.

Online Treatment Programs

20 October, 2023

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