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Anxious About Returning to the Office? Experts Offer Tips on How to Cope

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Friday, March 25, 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).

Dr. Hillary Ammon, assistant professor of clinical psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania, said a change in routine, like where you work, can be a stressor, but there are ways to manage those feelings.

"What I would recommend is for people to start to try to get into some of those routines that might look similar to the workplace," Ammon advised. "So if that really is, you know, you have a very structured day at your work, and you had more flexibility working from home, can you try to structure your day so that it looks more similar to that work environment?"

Ammon suggested practicing driving or taking public transportation to help ease back into your commute, along with meal planning and preparation.

Dr. Nicole Brady, chief medical officer for UnitedHealthcare's employer and individual business in 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 pointed out. "We know that vaccines are highly effective at preventing infection."

Other tips include 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.

Disclosure: United Healthcare contributes to our fund for reporting on Health Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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