Since March 2019, many workers have been teleworking due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which caused people to be isolated in their homes with minimal human interaction. The federal government alone experienced a decline in office workers that quickly went from 3% every day in the office to nearly 60% working at home to date. Now federal and state governments have a challenge to get these workers back into the office post-pandemic. They are actively working on reconstitution plans and guidance for employees to return to work, reentry and post-reentry for post-pandemic. The federal government’s nationwide operating status remains at “open with maximum telework flexibilities to all current telework eligible employees, pursuant to direction from agency heads.”
The return-to-office goal is to ensure workplaces are safe and healthy, and to have increased federal employees and contractors ease back into physical workplaces.
As plans evolve, workers are becoming more hesitant to return to work due to environmental concerns and the fear of falling ill. They are anxious about the uncertainty of returning back to work. They have major concerns about building conditions, heating and air conditioning ventilation, and, most importantly, potential employees who could be carriers of COVID-19.
With thoughts racing through your mind, you may say to yourself, how do I transition back into the workforce under new conditions? How can I effectively deal with working with no people to working with many, post-isolation?
To address some of these questions, you must develop resilience in the workplace and stay emotionally connected as you transition back to your worksite. Resilience is the key to overcoming work-related stressors and fatigue. It is a skill that you will have to practice on a daily basis to help ease tension.
Exercises to practice on a daily basis to get you back in the swing of things:
- Safety first. Pay close attention to safety precautions provided by your agency. Guidelines may include how to wear your personal protective equipment, how to clean your workspace before and after work, social distancing limitations, and new hand-washing techniques.
- You are important. Take good care of yourself by getting a good night’s sleep, at least eight hours. When you get up in the morning, be sure to eat healthy. Sit down for a few minutes before leaving for work by meditating quietly. Breathe deeply and let your mind relax before getting on the road or just before you go into your building to work. Do not binge on new shows or social media notifications, as this will get you off track. Rejuvenate your mind, body and soul.
- Remain flexible to change. Build resistance by paying close attention to how your body deals with stress. Determine what is really bothering you and respond immediately by taking a walk or exercising. You can even talk with a friend about your feelings in a positive way to relieve your anxiety to restore your sense of purpose.
Determine the best way to handle your stressors and make the best part of your day at the beginning by following these steps. Make it routine, and as you strengthen your resiliency, you will notice that your transition becomes easier day by day. You will become more productive, focused and calm at work.
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Wanda Dandridge is a subject matter expert on financial management systems for the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) Energy located at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. Her government career spans over 15 years, starting as an Army intern in financial management, then subsequently emerging as a transformational leader with DLA specializing in budget analysis, logistical support and employee development. Wanda’s greatest career accomplishment is receiving the Federal Employee of the Year Award with DLA Energy Pacific in 2012. Her philosophy is to lead by example while fostering others for their desired purpose. She is a Certified Defense Financial Manager (CDFM) who enjoys volunteering in her local community.