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Addressing COVID-19 Return Anxiety

As COVID-19 restrictions ease, some workers may look forward to returning to the workplace, while others may experience ‘return anxiety’.

Preparing for a healthy and safe return to the workplace can help reduce anxiety and stress.

Addressing COVID-19 Return Anxiety and its text description

Infographic: Addressing COVID-19 Return Anxiety

Description: Addressing COVID-19 Return Anxiety

Recognize the Signs

Some may experience heightened anxiety or stress because they are concerned about their own safety or that of others when returning to the workplace, or they may feel more productive and less stressed while working remotely.

The effects of return anxiety can be mental, emotional, and physical.

Some individuals may experience changes such as:

  • Excessive worrying
  • Feeling irritated, angry, sad, overwhelmed
  • Lack of motivation and productivity
  • Changes in sleep or appetite
  • Changes in mood and in interactions with others

Identify Contributing Factors

Identify and assess the stressors and psychological hazards which could be causing or worsening return anxiety.

  • Organizational factors: poor communication and management, interpersonal conflicts, excessive workload, and unsafe workplace environment.
  • Personal factors: social isolation, financial worries, child and elder care, pre-existing health conditions, and other socio-economic or demographic barriers.
  • Personal Responses to the COVID-19 pandemic: fear of illness, frustration with frequently changing control measures, and lockdown fatigue.

Address Return Anxiety

There are many ways to address return anxiety and promote a psychologically healthy and safe workplace before, during, and after the transition:

  • Provide mental health support. If someone is in crisis act immediately.
  • Ease back to the workplace to give workers time to adjust
  • Explore alternatives such as a hybrid workplace model
  • Communicate changes to policies and procedures in advance
  • Train and educate leaders to recognize and respond to psychological hazards
  • Check in frequently with workers
  • Seek both direct and anonymous feedback
  • Promote work-life balance and coping techniques

It is important to monitor for signs of return anxiety and other mental health concerns – these may not become obvious until after people return to work.

Continue to evaluate your plan to ensure you’re seeing positive results. Employers who are flexible and understanding can help ease the return to work and foster a psychologically healthy and safe workplace.

Document last updated on: 2022-03-16