Debate: There are great benefits to returning to in-person work

Going back to work can be an escape for those struggling at home

(Kristen Frier)

It’s been over a year since I began to log into Microsoft Teams in my joggers for work meetings. Though on some days, to look presentable, I’d get up early and dress up to appear “video-friendly.”

Last month, offices and workplaces were able to gradually start returning with existing safety plans in place, which means you could work in the office for a few days a week. The province expects that by September at the earliest, offices and workplaces could be fully reopened and “back to normal.”

As someone who has struggled with an anxiety disorder and is an immigrant in Canada, I understand how crucial it is to talk to people. I am aware of what an isolated environment can feel like when you’re distant from your family, which has been the case for many Canadians.

This is a feeling I wouldn’t wish upon anyone, but 2020 came with a global health emergency which many people across the globe are experiencing. For me, it was the uncertainty and helplessness that triggered my anxiety.

For others, it was domestic abuse. One in 10 Canadian women reported they “were very or extremely concerned” about being abused at home, according to Statistics Canada.

Returning to work is a splash of hope for getting through the tough days. Sometimes it’s the basic routine that you miss. I miss hearing my podcasts on the bus, and I haven’t listened to any since the pandemic started because it just doesn’t make sense in my world now.

I miss going to weekly work meetings in a black dress with a heavy-duty binder. It’s the act of being productive together with others that I miss, compared to the work-from-home setup.

I am a person who likes to be in my room, but when it was recommended that we isolate at home, I started hating my room, my own space. I couldn’t wait to be with my family, attend Thanksgiving dinners, exchange Christmas gifts.

British Columbia’s Restart plan will be a turning point for everyone. This update has categorized people into two categories: fear of missing out, and fear of going out. I belong to the former category, also known as FOMO.

Even though the constant fear of going out and being in exposure is a running thought, the whole setup is reliant on the vaccine rollout. Being fully vaccinated can help alleviate people’s anxiety about being in a workspace.

Anxiety Canada developed a self-help tool called “Mindshift CBT” in collaboration with Freshworks Studio. It engages with users to manage their anxiety, which can be useful for those who are struggling with going back to work. It also aims to provide effective mindfulness, calm the mental space, and reflect on habits.

It’s a great tool to have a headstart before you gear up in the professional world.

I remember talking to my roommate last year about the “new normal” protocol. It won’t be easy for me to be immediately comfortable in a social environment when I haven’t been around one in a long time.  But change never comes easy, even if it’s change that will improve our life.