How does returning to face-to-face work in the pandemic affect mental health? – 10/28/2021

When measures of social distancing began to become more rigid, in March 2020, graphic designer Mayra Brito, 25, was already working in a home office scheme, as she was a freelancer. But, looking for more financial stability, she accepted a company’s offer and returned to face-to-face in April of this year, which had an impact on her mental health.

“I was very insecure and tense, afraid to get covid-19, because I hadn’t been vaccinated yet and I live with my parents and my sister. To make matters worse, the company is far from my house. It took up to two hours to get there, using public transport always full,” says the paulistana, who opted for another job (also in person) three months later and intends to go back to working from home as soon as possible.

Currently, feelings such as those experienced by Mayra on her return to the office affect many Brazilians. At this time of the pandemic, when most companies have already resumed or plan to resume face-to-face activities soon, it is not uncommon for the change in routine to generate anxiety, stress, difficulty sleeping and insecurity in employees, especially in those who are still facing it — with good reason. — the coronavirus as a threat. “For fear not to dominate me, what I do is think positively and strictly follow all safety recommendations”, says the designer.

Elaine Di Sarno, psychologist and researcher at HCFMUSP (Hospital das Clínicas, Faculty of Medicine, University of São Paulo), agrees that taking all the necessary precautions and trying to see something positive in the situation are good ways to calm down. “Think that with the return to the office it will be easier to limit working hours, something that was lost a little during the home office period, and it will be an opportunity to go out and meet colleagues that we haven’t seen in person for a long time”, exemplifies the expert.

Can you control anxiety at work?

Yes. And, in that sense, it’s worth betting on all the emotional regulation strategies that work for you: listening to relaxing music, doing breathing exercises, meditating, or taking a break and walking. “If you notice that it’s not working, seek professional help”, advises Simone Lopes de Melo, a psychologist and professor at UFRN (Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte), noting that, in more serious cases, this constant anguish can give rise or potentiate problems such as generalized anxiety attacks, panic attacks and OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder).

Talking to the manager is also a way, so that he or she is aware and can help in any way possible. “The head does not always have the autonomy to allow the person to return to the home office scheme. However, the simple act of talking, feeling that we have this open channel and that there is concern for our well-being makes us feel better “, evaluates Adriana Gomes, psychologist, career coach and professor at ESPM (Superior School of Advertising and Marketing), in São Paulo. “When it comes to exposing the need or desire to continue working from home, reinforce that the home office has not harmed your performance and, if applicable, demonstrate flexibility by suggesting a hybrid scheme and measures that would make you more comfortable in the face-to-face scheme”, says Gomes.

woman in the office wearing mask - iStock - iStock
Image: iStock

Are we ready to go back?

That’s the question many are asking. But, for now, there is no consensus, mainly because each city has its contamination rates and each company offers an infrastructure for employees. “But, in general, we can say that it is much safer to go back to work in person today than it was six months ago, for example”, declares Estêvão Urbano, infectious disease and director of the SBI (Brazilian Society of Infectology).

Even so, it is essential to continue taking all preventive measures: keep a distance of 1.5 m between people, open the windows to leave the area well ventilated, sanitize your hands and surfaces with alcohol gel or soap and water and use masks, giving preference to surgical masks, type PFF2/N95 or cotton with two layers, always ensuring that there are no cracks in the material.

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