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Going Back to the Workplace Can Rattle Employees

The COVID-19 pandemic may have forever altered the trajectory on what is normal, including the need to have employees work on-site.

The COVID-19 pandemic may have forever altered the trajectory on what is normal, including the need to have employees work on-site. After more than 18 months of home offices, many don’t savor returning to the workplace.

There’s even a name for it. Dr. Susan Albers said reentry anxiety is the feeling of going back to the workplace after feeling safe at home. She said anxiety is good in certain situations, but it can be paralyzing when it overwhelms someone.

With the global impact of the pandemic, there’s a significant level of back-to-work stress. Forty-nine percent of Americans said they feel uneasy about adjusting to in-person interaction, according to the American Psychological Association.

Krissy Brokenshire of Lansing is experiencing reentry anxiety. She works for the Ingham County court system and, like most workers in the state, was sent home when the shutdown occurred. When she returned to in-person work three days a week, the shortage of child care facilities became a stressor.

“Going back to actual physical work — and I’m a people person — I have never had such social anxiety as being in a group of people in an office setting before,” she said. “(Working from home) was very relaxed, and I got a lot more done when I was working from home. When we got back to the office setting, especially because we had not seen each other in over a year, people were constantly coming in, and it was very distracting.”

Brokenshire is now working in a different department and said her stress level has dropped because her new division has a culture of looking out for one another. The supervisors speak openly about reentry stress and encourage employees to consider their mental health.

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