- Employers desire our return to the office because they believe that it is better for the overall health of their organization.
- For many workers, a return to the office amounts to a substantial loss of control over their life.
- If you do have to go back, however, there are coping skills that are worth learning in order to mitigate stress and anxiety from work.
Employers have increasingly begun requesting workers to return to the office after an extended period of time working remotely due to the pandemic. On the whole, employers are excited to get back into the office, whereas employees are not.
In fact, research indicates that most workers anticipate that their mental health will worsen upon returning to the office.
What can workers do to navigate the Great Return?
Negotiating the return
In some cases, you might not have to return to the office at all. Indeed, quite often – though, indeterminately– you can negotiate whether or not you have to return to the office at all.
Likewise, if this is more suitable, you can negotiate a flexible agreement with your employer.
Negotiating requires strategy. For starters, it is worth considering things from your employer’s perspective. For the most part, employers desire our return to the office because they believe that it is, in terms of the overall health of their organization, better.
For example, you can show or discuss with your employer research that has established the efficiency of remote work relative to in-office work. This particular strategy would work well in conjunction with mentioning that remote work has made you more efficient as well.
In order to prove the latter point, this will require you to track your work progress in some way. Just because you think it has made you more efficient doesn’t mean that will prove it to your boss, so providing data imagery can be really a helpful negotiating tool.
Another valuable piece of evidence you may use when negotiating is the fact that remote work demonstrably cuts costs for companies.
Once your data has been collected, you can then write a written proposal using that data to debunk the myths surrounding remote work. This proposal can be used as the impetus to set up a meeting with your employer to negotiate the terms and conditions of the agreement.
In the meeting, after all of the productivity matters have been covered, personalizing your argument will be crucial. If you do not have good personal reasons for wanting to continue remote work indefinitely, you will have a hard time making your case.
Thus, if you have children you want to be around more for, or obligations that require a greater degree of flexibility, this is the time to bring these factors to the negotiating table.
Once you’ve made your case, you should be flexible and patient with your expectations, because there is no guarantee that you will get precisely what you want out of the agreement. Negotiations might take months, and may only amount to a hybrid arrangement.
What is worth keeping in mind here is that all of this is within your power as a worker, which is in itself quite empowering.
What if I have to go back?
Let’s say the negotiations did not go as planned, and you have no choice but to return to the office.
This isn’t just a hypothetical scenario, because as we speak, many employers are giving their employees ultimatums: either come back to the office or find a new job (or something comparable to this).
It is important to note that bracing for anxiety is absolutely a natural response. For many workers, a return to the office amounts to a substantial loss of control over their life.
If you do have to go back, however, there are coping skills that are worth learning in order to mitigate stress and anxiety from work. And if these do not work, looking into a work-focused therapist will be highly worth considering.
Here are some methods you can use to cope with work-related anxiety on the change that you must return to the office:
- Breathing: A method of breathing from Zen Buddhism known as Zazen entails counting your breaths. You can start by taking a few deep breaths, and then allowing your breathing to return to a natural pace. Once it has returned to a natural pace, count your breaths –both inhalation and exhalation– to 10 and then repeat.
- Grounding: Grounding techniques are practices used to divert your attention away from negative thoughts or emotions. Some of these techniques include:
- Taking a walk
- Making yourself laugh
- Calling a kind friend
- Thinking about an activity or person that makes you happy
For very few employees, the mass return to the office post-pandemic is something to look forward to. However, it isn’t a necessary fate for all workers facing this looming state of affairs.
Negotiating the return to the office is likely to yield results that both employees and employers are happy with. What is likely in most of these cases is that some hybrid option will be granted.
Nonetheless, it should be viewed as profoundly optimistic that negotiations with employers can actually turn out to have favorable effects for employees. No longer are the days when employees are at the beckoning call of employers; nowadays, employees have far more power.
In those cases where negotiation does not work, however, using the tools mentioned above can help you cope with the anxiety and stress that accompanies office work for you.