3 Ways to Cope When Return to Work Plans Change

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Laura Berlinsky-Schine2.3k
April 24, 2024 at 7:5PM UTC

In a FlexJobs survey of more than 2,100 people who were working remotely, conducted between March and April 2021, 65% of respondents said they wanted to remain full-time remote after the pandemic. 58% even said they would “absolutely” look for another job if they couldn’t continue to work remotely.

But additional research tells a different story. While it’s true that many workers want to continue to work from home, others are eager to go back into the office. “Those early in their career generally want to remain at home, most of those in the middle stage want to head back to the office, and those in the later stage are mixed,” James R. Bailey writes in Harvard Business Review.

There’s another layer to address, too: ever-changing workplace policies. New variants and conflicting advice are among the many reasons why many employers are rethinking their return-to-work plans. And while it’s not unreasonable, given the fact that the direction of the pandemic is never certain, for workers who are dealing with changing intel, the frustration is mounting.

How to cope when you don’t want to return to the office (and you’re asked to)

According to Meag-gan O’Reilly, a Stanford psychologist, the transition to largely remote work for so many in the early pandemic was “jarring” and led to overwhelming uncertainty. Now, moving back into a physical workplace may be equally difficult, if not more so. 

Perhaps you’re concerned about health and safety. You may have gotten used to working from home, too, and aren’t comfortable with the disruption. 

If you’re worried about safety, discuss your concerns with your manager. Ask about measures they’ve put in place to protect you and your colleagues. Also, develop a plan for protecting your own wellness — perhaps you’re afraid you won’t be able to maintain a work-life balance, so ensure you’re investing in self-care.

Finally, listen to your employer’s rationale for the return to work. You may not agree, but they have a reason. If you’re uncomfortable to the point where you aren’t able to go into the office and you can’t come to an agreement with your employer, you should consider looking elsewhere.

How to cope when you do want to return to the office (but you can’t)

On the flip side, some workplaces have instituted remote work forever policies. And while this is appealing to some, others are struggling with the missing social connection that comes with in-person work.

If you fall into this camp, look for ways to maintain relationships and build new ones. Discuss the idea of coworking spaces with your employer — perhaps they’re willing to give you a stipend to help.

Look for ways to establish connections beyond your workplace, too. Attend networking events and conferences, virtually and in person. Reach out to people in your industry on LinkedIn and see if you can meet up for coffee. 

Remember to form clear boundaries to maintain a solid work-life balance, protecting yourself, while also respecting others’ boundaries.

How to cope when you don’t know what you really feel about the office

You don’t have to know how you’re feeling about going into the office. It’s a confusing time for everyone. If you are asked to return, work on getting back into a routine — one that may have fallen by the wayside when you started working remotely. 

You might be frustrated with the ambiguity, and that’s to be expected. But remember that nobody knows what’s going to happen with the pandemic, including your employer. They’re doing their best, just like you are. But for your own peace of mind, continue to ask questions, although they may not be able to give you all the answers.

Wherever you stand, it’s important to show compassion for others and yourself. It’s a trying time, work-wise and otherwise, so be cognizant of your own needs and those of others.


This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of Fairygodboss.

Laura Berlinsky-Schine is a freelance writer and editor based in Brooklyn with her demigod/lab mix Hercules. She specializes in education, technology and career development. She also writes satire and humor, which has appeared in Slackjaw, Points in Case, Little Old Lady Comedy, Jane Austen’s Wastebasket, and Funny-ish. View her work and get in touch at: www.lauraberlinskyschine.com.

What’s your no. 1 piece of advice for coping when return to work plans changes — regardless of how someone feels about the office? Share your answer in the comments to help other Fairygodboss members!

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