Returning to the office:
In June 2020 we posted a blog post called “Experience in a pandemic”. Reflecting on this post now, little did any of us know that there were many more twists and turns to come for the following two years. Remedy Clinic, like so many other in-person services had to utterly change how we worked from those early days onward. We worked from home to begin, doing online appointments and this is now an integrated part of how therapists work and will remain into the future. When we first returned to in-person we did so behind Perspex screens and stringent hygiene and health and safety protocol, it felt at times like a scene from science fiction. We are thankfully back to in-person and working consistently again in our offices in a more traditional way akin to pre-pandemic.
So many industries followed suit. Many people welcomed the WFH (work from home) paradigm and were glad to see the back of commutes, traffic, expensive lunches, and some of the other “wastages” people were unconsciously engaging in. The grand WFH experiment thew up a lot of unforeseen issues for people alongside its collateral benefits. Cramped spaces and crowded houses, excessive exposure to work due to lack of other activities, proximity to the fridge or the drinks cabinet created a lot of challenges for individuals and there were many issues created by the pandemic that may not have otherwise been.
That fated Friday, where the restrictive measures all but fell away on national TV, was as much of a whirlwind to the senses as the emergence of Covid-19 was in February 2020. Just like that, life was returning to normal – and this time to old normal, not new normal!!
Habituation is the process of becoming accustomed to something, led by our basest of learning mechanisms – the stimulus response (classic conditioning) action. We had learned to avoid the other, 2m to be precise. Not to make physical contact. To hold coughs and sneezes or dive into a hedge to do so privately and safely. Triple up on handwashing. Wear masks. Wait outdoors for coffees. Present at the supermarket at certain times. All of this was alien in February of 2020 – but being the adaptable and capable species we are, we integrated all of it into our new world. We did so to the point of polarizing certain elements and fighting about them on twitter! We needed to pass the time. Some of us became comfortable in this new world, others were chomping at the bit for the world to come back.
For those who did not suffer from anxiety and wanted a return to normal, they will be happy returning to the office – getting into contact with people directly and having the workplace as a social outlet again. Many employers know that collaboration and innovation happen when people are together, and healthy competition and forward momentum and drive comes from people engaging in groups in the office. It has yet to be seen what the off shoots are from the pandemic, even for those eager for a return to normal. It was a challenging and surreal experience for all, and whilst we learned a lot of new necessary behaviour, we will have forgotten, or at least blunted our previous social skill sets.
For those who are anxious and feel worried or overwhelmed it will be a challenging transition back to the office. Teams and individuals need to develop a keen eye for comfort levels around certain old behaviours and look out for those who seem to be struggling with the return. Everyone is going to have this entire experience and its impact within them – the dynamics this can or will create, has yet to be seen. Working with a counsellor on anxiety can be really helpful – the transition back to the office is now a significant life event. It’s a 1 in 100-year occurrence, and we all have been in the middle of it. Feeling stressed, overwhelmed or anxious never benefits anyone, including teams. Companies should be considering having EAP services on standby or at least be open to offering ad-hoc EAP counselling sessions for team members who are struggling with the return.
Like any transition, this too shall pass – but in June 2020 we closed out the blog with this thought – which we feel fits nicely into this current transition period;
“We are going through something unexpected – we have experienced a lot. It is now time to make sure that as we move forward in caring and consideration for one another, we make a firm commitment to ourselves, if we need to, to look after our own needs, and our own emotional wellbeing”
We echo this sentiment, and hope that teams and individuals look out for each other and offer support to each other directly or through provision of services.
EAP Enquiries – email@example.com
Remedy Clinic – Counselling Dublin, Counselling Dublin City Centre, Counselling Dublin 2.