EDITORIAL: The challenges of returning to work in person

It can be tempting to think that we are, finally, leaving the troubles of the coronavirus pandemic behind. Considering the precautionary conditions imposed during the pandemic’s first two years it’s not surprising that there is a sense of relief. When you don’t have to wear a mask all the time any longer, for example, it’s a big difference.

But a recent story from the Associated Press reminds us that the troubles of the pandemic are far from over, and that there are residual effects that are likely to remain an influence for quite some time.

The story is about returning to work in person. While it may seem a welcome return to routine, there are a number of stress-inducing aspects that make it challenging. “Working from home has been a lot less stressful when it comes to work-life balance,” noted Julio Carmona, a finance worker at the state Department of Children and Families whose experience was highlighted in the AP story. “You are far more productive because there are a lot less distractions,” he said.

Carmona, who works in Stratford, listed other anxieties sure to be familiar now that people are heading back to work in person: more money spent on gas and lunch, day-care costs and balancing life and work in a healthy way.

“As more companies mandate a return to the office, workers must readjust to pre-pandemic rituals like long commutes, juggling child care and physically interacting with colleagues,” wrote the AP’s Anne D’innocenzio. “But such routines have become more difficult two years later. Spending more time with your colleagues could increase exposure to the coronavirus, for example, while inflation has increased the costs for lunch and commuting.”

An April AP-NORC poll, cited in the story, provides some statistical information about the return to work experience, with 41% of workers who have returned saying the stress they’ve experienced has worsened.

It’s clearly a pandemic-related development that needs watching. “For companies, it’s all about prioritizing mental health and being communicative about it,” said Jessica Edwards, of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. “They should not be afraid of asking their employees how are they really doing.”

Quite simply, it remains a difficult time. We can feel glad about eased restrictions, wary of virus surges, glad to be back at work, stressed by doing so. After two years of an uprooted society, it’s going to take some time to find our footing.




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