Updated: Jun 4, 2021
It’s official. America's opening back up. Even NYC who was arguably the hardest hit last year with Covid 19 deaths - whewww! I still get really sad when I think of NYC during the Covid 19. It was horrible but life goes on. Businesses and schools are calling for our return although tourism has drastically changed and many businesses have shut their doors.
Even though I knew it was coming, I felt some reentry anxiety from the moment I spotted the return to work announcement in my inbox. It’s been 14 months of lightning changes and super-drastic shifts. One moment I’m in meetings where an impending shutdown is discussed and waved aside like it’s nothing, then a week later I’m trying to figure it all out. Scrambling on all fronts - work, home, older generation, homeschool. Toilet paper and stores that won’t sell more than one pack of water at a time.
Growing up where I did, I’m no stranger to unexpected changes growing up amidst coups, countercoups, riots, strikes and sickness. I also pride myself in my ability to adapt quickly.
Still... It shook me.
I’m concerned about letting my kids go back into school even though I think it’s important they do so. I’m concerned about anti-vaxxers and mask-haters on my work commute and all the work changes that have happened since March 2020. I question the effect the WFH changes will have on my team, some colleagues have quit and then there are some I’ve never met in person.
It almost feels like 1 variant (like we’ve seen happen to India) could topple this sandcastle of hope we're relying on - which is what this all feels like sometimes.
These are four tips that have helped me deal with outsiding:
My race, my pace:
My reentry pace doesn't have to match everyone else’s. If my reentry needs to be slow then that’s what it will be. It's my role to decide on the pace I'm comfortable with and communicate that.
In work situations where I may not have full control, I still need to keep channels of communication open. Same goes for social events, where friends or loved ones may choose to “guilt” you into attending instead of being empathetic.
In some immigrant communities, where physical attendance at events is considered 'real support', this may not go as smoothly as you would like but seeing as I literally got sick after an outing I felt pressured to attend recently, I’ve learned that communication can literally save me from a headache and that I shouldn’t have to apologize for being true to myself.
My body speaks and I need to listen:
I wear many hats and this period has taught me a thing or two about pacing myself and not overthinking everything. We’ve all seen how quickly things can go when we don’t pay attention quickly enough and I think it’s a lesson for a lifetime. Our careers are important to us but health & wellness should always be the top priority.
Social distancing rules never hurt anyone:
In some places, way before the pandemic, masks were considered normal ways to reduce ailments and doctor visits. As of today, there are a ton of theories about if we the vaccinated need to wear masks or wash their hands. I believe that every organization owes their staff some consideration and if adhering to CDC guidelines longer reduces not only covid19 rates but also reentry anxiety then it should continue. Have the conversation with your manager if you have any concerns about your safety. Organizations are more likely to relax the rules if no one speaks up or points out a problem.
Considering the uncertainties and trauma-related events, reentering the post-pandemic workplace will require a lot of compassion and support from individuals, managers and organizations. It's the only way we can ever get back to "normal" (or the closest thing to it)
Are you back at (in) the office yet? What do you think has changed? What do you miss most about working from home, if anything?