Seven Ways to Ease Your Fears About Commuting Again

Viewed in Bloomberg BusinessWeek

The 2020-21 global pandemic has inflicted almost unfathomable direct and indirect costs on the global economy that extend into trillions of dollars. And, on an individual basis, it has cost millions of jobs globally and inflicted less easily measured costs, such as increasing anxiety and depression diagnoses globally and escalating emotional strains on families.

Accustomed to work remotely

Now, for the vast majority of employees who are poised to survive this pandemic with both their lives and jobs intact, the possible end to it is presenting one additional taxing reality and question: How are these employees who largely have become accustomed to working remotely going to abruptly adopt to returning to a restoration of their traditional work schedule, commute, and environment. “Quarantine has given us the longest Sunday of the modern age, and suddenly it’s Monday,” Translation Equipment HQ CEO Will Ward observes in this Bloomberg BusinessWeek article.

Seven tactics to restore pre-pandemic work lives

But this article offers some steps that employees can explore as they attempt to ease the transition back to commutes, office life, and more predictable work schedules. Bloomberg BusinessWeek identifies seven such tactics that employees might pursue as they face the restoration of their pre-pandemic work lives.

Confront realities

First, making that transition easy starts with confronting the reality of it. “It’s happening—you can’t stop it,” BusinessWeek reports.  In other words, tempting as it might be, psychological avoidance or denial will not likely prove helpful as this transition approaches. Rather, confronting it head on actually eases the transitional burden.  

Look at the positive

Second, as the old cliché goes, “look at the positive.” Yes, there are some positives. BusinessWeek reminds us that, before the pandemic, office commutes at least offered periods of solitude that at least partly offset a commute’s otherwise burdensome costs and predictable irritations. Use the time of a commute “to self-reflect—or listen to audiobooks, call friends and family, or learn a language,” Pennsylvania therapist Crystal Oakman suggests in this article.

Avoid abrupt commuting

Third, avoid returning to the commute abruptly. Practice can help. “Try a practice day and see what it feels like. Then if you can, start with one day a week. Tell yourself to go easy and that it will take time to settle,” New York City psychotherapist Kim Hertz suggests.

These suggestions, of course, presume that remote work life does actually return soon to normalcy and is not extended by emerging pandemic variants, such as Omicron, or an unexpected escalation in cases as the world’s northern hemispheres prepare to face winter during which most viruses, including this one, typically become more prevalent.

Consider hybrid

Finally, even if the public health case for remote work is now unnecessary, as we observed in August, management consulting giant McKinsey predicts the emergence of a new normal that includes hybrid approaches to post-pandemic work life.

Mutually beneficial

Under this scenario, employees would spend some time working remotely, as they have been for over a year, and the rest in their office. Companies struggled to adopt remote work practices and policies initially. But once they did, many realized there were some benefits to it. This, coupled with the recognition that many employees have come to appreciate it too raise the question of whether these useful transitional tips will or will not ultimately need to be leveraged.

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