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Return to Office Series: Preparing for Accelerated Socialization

The lockdown measures and social distancing protocols of the pandemic have made it easy for people to build a routine around the seclusion of their home and circle. Whether you had any sort of social anxiety prior to this or you have developed social anxiety as a result of being in isolation, the idea of returning to a social life can be daunting even for the most sociable people in your life.

Invitations have likely started rolling in for outdoor barbeques, patios, movies, and more. Already, you may have attended some and declined others in an attempt to create a sense of moderation and ease yourself in. However, all of these are controllable, and your friends and family will understand when you need some alone time. The looming uncertainty can come more strongly for the notion of returning to a physical workplace. Here, the expectations may not be, or feel, so flexible. Returning to the office, whether hybrid or full-time, is a commitment to your job. It is perfectly natural to feel anxious about not meeting expectations when you may be feeling uncomfortable. Being social and showing up as your best self takes energy, especially in a professional environment.

A degree of collective social anxiety became the norm during the pandemic. The good news is that with this increase in social anxiety will likely come a newfound understanding and accommodation for these emotions.

Here are some exercises that you may want to try in order to reduce the anxiety of accelerated socialization as it dawns upon us. Feel free to try these out yourselves or share with your employees as some potential tools to help us through this transition.

  • Transparent communication between employer and employees. If you are an employee, addressing your concerns early is likely to aid in a smoother transition. Communicating how you’re feeling about coming back to work with a trusted team member either your manager or someone in the HR team, can help them understand your particular situation and also potentially provide a transition plan to increase your comfort levels. As an employer, it would be helpful to prepare for employees’ potential anxiety by having some communication options available as people transition back into the workplace. Preparing to validate these emotions and having some ideas on possible accommodations that could work for your business will truly help with the well-being of your team and ensuring long-term satisfaction.

  • Social strength building. Avoiding all situations that trigger social anxiety may help you in the short-term, but experts suggest small doses of social interactions will help cope with social anxiety in the long term and ease you back into social situations in a comfortable way. While you may still have time before entering the office, strengthening your social endurance through small tasks can help you prepare for the return to office. Some different things to try out could be:

  • Leaving the house for a walk every day

  • Heading to the local market to purchase items rather than getting a delivery

  • Texting a friend

  • Making plans for a social event and sticking to it

  • Inviting a friend over for a coffee

  • Taking a walk around your office’s neighbourhood to reacclimate

Preparedness is the key in the defense of accelerated socialization on our well-being. Whether social anxiety is new or reoccurring in your life, taking the steps, however daunting they may seem, can make strides in alleviated these emotions in the future.

We will continue to share more topics around the space of returning to office in the coming weeks. Continue to check our blog to read more.

For further reading, our Future of Work Disruption Audit report explores relevant areas such as: Peer Connections, Organizing Around Well-Being, and Pilot Initiatives amongst much more that cover how we will work in the future.

Learn more about Headway, a movement to promote and support healthy minds at work. Download Headway resources and guides to help your workplace start the conversation about mental health.

  • Business Case for Healthy Minds at Work: Hard facts that show the positive financial impact of implementing mental health programs in the workplace.

  • Resource Roadmap: Links to Canadian organizations that specialize in supporting mental health in the workplace.

  • Employer Guide: An integrated and holistic way of thinking about workplace mental wellness.

The Future of Work is part of SW&As Disruption Audit: A look at universal trends like demographics and the economy as well as industry specific trends in areas such as retail and food production. For more information, contact


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