Wednesday, May 18

Anxious about returning to the office? This is the experts’ best advice

The reopening of society makes most of us rejoice. Many are especially happy to be able to replace slippers with dress shoes and to return to colleagues in the office. But what many experience as a long-awaited victory can be both uncomfortable and demanding for others.

– The vast majority are probably very much looking forward to coming back. Then there are some who think the home office has been absolutely great and will doubt it, says Pål Molander. He is director of the Norwegian Institute for the Working Environment, and believes that many may need time before we return to old routines.

– It is important to have respect for, so it is important to take the transition a little gradually, says Molander.

Insurance adviser Fredrik Landaas has been in the home office for two years. He’s hugely happy to be back in the office, but not everyone shares his excitement. Photo: Geir Johnny Huneide / TV 2

Less joy

Having to step out of the temporary office space in the living room to meet people you have not seen other than Teams since February 2020, makes more people anxious. Psychologist Benjamin Silseth says one can have many different emotions associated with the reopening, and believes it is important to give space to everyone.

– Both the positive ones with reopening and things like that, but also make room for the negative feelings that may come. Whether it is that you feel anxiety related to social situations, or that the social calendar becomes too crowded, or that you think it is a bit strenuous to think about reopening, says Silseth.

Although he encourages everyone to enjoy the reopening to the best of their ability, the psychologist is also clear that the transition back to a normal everyday life can come as a surprise to many.

– Remember that it is quite normal to feel that things do not give as much joy as before. That joy will return in time. You just have to persevere a little longer and think that there is light at the end of the tunnel, Silseth says.

In addition to the social aspect, one is also often afraid of whether one still lives up to the work requirements set in the office, says psychiatrist and hypochondriac doctor Ingvard Wilhelmsen.

Psychologist Benjamin Silseth says the transition to a normal everyday life can be solved by taking small steps.  Photo: Frode Sunde / TV 2

Psychologist Benjamin Silseth says the transition to a normal everyday life can be solved by taking small steps. Photo: Frode Sunde / TV 2

He runs the country’s only hypochondriac clinic at the University of Bergen, and has extensive experience with other people’s anxiety, well-founded or not. The psychiatrist says that the reopening is mainly a positive thing, as long as you are able to see it that way.

– People deal with real problems better than imagined problems. This that it now opens up, it’s real. Not a problem, but a real, nice development. We must endure that, Wilhelmsen believes.

May cause anxiety

Psychiatrist Ingvard Wilhelmsen is known as the hypochondriac doctor, and understands that people may be anxious to return to the office.  Photo: Trond Solvang

Psychiatrist Ingvard Wilhelmsen is known as the hypochondriac doctor, and understands that people may be anxious to return to the office. Photo: Trond Solvang

Still, he fully understands that many may worry about having to step out of the comfortable home office bubble.

– It’s not so strange if you are a little anxious. “Suddenly I’ll meet everyone else again, do I remember all the routines?” If you have been on holiday or you have been awake for a long time, come back again. “What was that password now?” Then you do not remember it, says the psychiatrist.

If you recognize yourself in the example above, the hypochondriac doctor can reassure you that this is completely natural. The psychiatrist believes that the decisive factor is what you choose to do with the anxious thoughts.

– It is not the catastrophic thoughts themselves that are the problem, but that you start fooling around with them. You begin to believe in them, begin to pursue them. Then you can get anxiety, because then you can see all kinds of problems that can arise, Wilhelmsen explains.

A bear service

Hypochondriac Wilhelsen says that we do ourselves a disservice if we worry or spend a lot of energy on something that can happen. The psychiatrist calls these “Think about” thoughts, and says this applies to all emotions related to anxiety, not just when it comes to thoughts about reopening. He encourages everyone to focus on real issues and situations, rather than thinking too much about anything that could potentially happen.

– These “think about” thoughts we can identify, but once we have done that we do not need to give them attention. Do not follow them to the bitter end. Do not try to get rid of them either, because they are completely normal. Everyone thinks a little like “think about” thoughts and a little catastrophic thoughts, just take it easy, Wilhelmsen assures.

If the thought of physical encounters makes you anxious, hypochondriac doctor Wilhelmsen has clear advice.  Photo: Ole Enes Ebbesen / TV 2

If the thought of physical encounters makes you anxious, hypochondriac doctor Wilhelmsen has clear advice. Photo: Ole Enes Ebbesen / TV 2

And if you still should return to the office on Monday with a bad feeling in your stomach, the psychiatrist says that you can take it easy. Feeling a little out of shape is completely normal – and usually passes quickly.

– Many can come to catastrophic thinking: «I am so rusty». Yes, you’re probably a little rusty, but we can stand it. It’s amazing how fast people get into old routines. Much like a class that has been apart for 50 years, they meet. They go into old roles, it’s just like before, Wilhelmsen concludes.

Call for an employer

If you find the transition to a normal everyday life difficult, psychologist Benjamin Silseth believes that you should put into words what you feel about, for example, a friend.

– Talk to someone. Dare to put a few words on it. Most likely you are not alone, and then you get echoes from a colleague or friend.

In addition, it can be smart to return to everyday life at your own pace. This applies not only to the transition to the office, but to the reopening of society in general.

– Take small steps. Think that you do not have to throw yourself into everything at once, says the psychologist.

Here, Pål Molander agrees. The director of the Norwegian Institute of the Working Environment believes it is important to remember that the employer has a responsibility to make everyone feel comfortable returning to the office. He hopes business leaders around the country remember being aware that many are now in a challenging situation.

– I think the management must be clear on what you want, where you are going and what the goal is when you return to the workplace. They should set aside time for evaluations along the way, says Molander.

Reference-www.tv2.no

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