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Returning to work after the pandemic: Coping with stress

Key Points

  1. Acknowledge and communicate: Accept the stress and uncertainty surrounding the return to work, and maintain open communication with colleagues and supervisors to address concerns and stay informed.

  2. Establish routines and prioritize self-care: Create a structured daily routine, set boundaries between work and personal life, and engage in self-care practices, such as exercise and relaxation techniques.

  3. Embrace flexibility and adaptability: Cultivate a mindset of adaptability to adjust to the changing post-pandemic workplace, and be open to new ways of working and setting realistic goals.

  4. Build social connections and foster positivity: Reconnect with colleagues, create new relationships, practice gratitude, and focus on the positive aspects of work and personal life to improve overall well-being.

  5. Develop coping strategies and seek professional help when necessary: Identify personal stress management techniques, and don't hesitate to seek help from mental health professionals or Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) if the stress becomes overwhelming.

The image depicts a chaotic and overwhelming scene that represents the experience of stress. The art style is abstract expressionism, characterized by bold brushstrokes and vivid colors that convey a sense of urgency and intensity. In the foreground, we see a figure with a furrowed brow and tense shoulders, their body language indicating a sense of unease and distress. Surrounding the figure, we see a swirling mass of colors and shapes that represent the different stressors that are contributing to their sense of overwhelm. Some of the stressors are more prominent than others, such as a looming deadline or a difficult conversation. These stressors are depicted with jagged lines and sharp angles, conveying a sense of urgency and tension. Other stressors are more subtle, such as a nagging worry or a nagging physical discomfort. These stressors are depicted with softer, more organic shapes that blend into the background, conveying a sense of insidiousness and pervasiveness. The colors in the image are bright and intense, representing the emotional intensity of the stress experience. Reds and oranges convey a sense of urgency and danger, while blues and greens represent a sense of restlessness and unease. Overall, the image captures the overwhelming and chaotic nature of the stress experience. The abstract expressionist style adds to the sense of urgency and intensity, conveying the challenging and emotional impact of stress on our lives.


The COVID-19 pandemic will be remembered as a time when the world came to a standstill, upending the lives of millions and forcing us to adapt to new ways of working. As vaccines have been developed and distributed, and the pandemic begins to recede, the process of re-integrating into the workplace has become a new challenge. The stress of returning to work after an extended period of remote or hybrid work can be overwhelming, but with the right tools and strategies, employees can successfully navigate this transition.

Acknowledge the Stress and Uncertainty

The first step in coping with stress is to acknowledge its existence. The post-pandemic workplace is unfamiliar territory, and it is normal to feel anxiety or fear. Employees should give themselves permission to experience these emotions and recognize that they are not alone. Employers, too, should be understanding and compassionate, acknowledging the challenges faced by their staff and providing support where needed.

Establish a Routine

One of the most effective ways to cope with stress is to establish a routine. Structure can provide a sense of stability and predictability amidst the uncertainty of returning to work. Employees should aim to create a daily routine that includes regular sleep, exercise, and meal times. This may also involve setting boundaries between work and personal life, ensuring that time is allocated for rest and relaxation.

Stay Informed and Communicate

Misinformation and lack of communication can exacerbate stress. Employees should stay informed about workplace policies and guidelines related to COVID-19, and feel comfortable asking questions if they are unsure. Open and honest communication between colleagues and supervisors is crucial during this period of adjustment. Employers should establish clear channels of communication, encourage employees to share their concerns, and provide timely updates on any changes.

Prioritize Self-Care

Self-care is essential for managing stress and maintaining mental well-being. Employees should ensure they are taking care of themselves physically, mentally, and emotionally. This can include engaging in physical activity, practicing mindfulness or relaxation techniques, and seeking professional help if needed. Employers should support and encourage self-care practices by offering resources, providing flexible work arrangements, and fostering a culture that values employee well-being.

Embrace Flexibility and Adaptability

The post-pandemic workplace is likely to be a dynamic and ever-changing environment. Employees should cultivate a mindset of flexibility and adaptability, being prepared to adjust their expectations and embrace new ways of working. Employers, too, should be open to change and willing to experiment with new approaches, recognizing that what worked pre-pandemic may not necessarily be effective in the new normal.

Build Social Connections

Social support is crucial for managing stress and maintaining mental health. As employees return to the workplace, they should prioritize reconnecting with colleagues and building new relationships. Employers can facilitate social connections by organizing team-building events, creating opportunities for informal interactions, and fostering a culture of inclusivity and camaraderie.

Set Realistic Expectations and Goals

Returning to work after the pandemic may require employees to recalibrate their expectations and goals. It is important to recognize that performance levels may not immediately return to pre-pandemic standards, and that it may take time to adapt to new ways of working. Employees should set realistic and achievable goals, focusing on progress rather than perfection. Employers should support this process by offering feedback, encouragement, and understanding.

Practice Gratitude and Positivity

Focusing on positive aspects of life and practicing gratitude can help alleviate stress and improve overall well-being. Employees should make an effort to identify and appreciate the positive aspects of their work and personal lives, even amidst the challenges of returning to the workplace. This can include expressing gratitude for supportive colleagues, meaningful work, or personal accomplishments. Employers can contribute to a positive workplace culture by recognizing employee achievements, offering words of encouragement, and fostering an environment of optimism.

Develop Coping Strategies

Each individual has unique coping mechanisms that work best for them when dealing with stress. Employees should identify and develop strategies that help them effectively manage stress in the workplace, such as deep breathing exercises, journaling, or engaging in hobbies outside of work. Employers can support the development of these coping strategies by providing resources and training on stress management techniques.

Seek Professional Help When Necessary

In some cases, the stress of returning to work may be too overwhelming to manage on one's own. Employees should be encouraged to seek professional help when needed, such as speaking with a therapist, counselor, or mental health professional. Employers can facilitate access to these resources by offering Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) or providing information on local mental health services.


As we navigate the uncharted waters of the post-pandemic workplace, it is crucial to prioritize mental well-being and develop effective strategies for coping with stress. By acknowledging the challenges, creating routines, staying informed, prioritizing self-care, embracing flexibility, building social connections, setting realistic goals, practicing gratitude, developing coping strategies, and seeking professional help when necessary, employees can successfully adapt to the new normal and thrive in the face of uncertainty.

For employers, the role is equally vital: by fostering a supportive, flexible, and compassionate work environment, they can help employees navigate this challenging transition and lay the foundation for a resilient and healthy workforce in the post-pandemic era. The lessons learned during this time will not only guide us through the present challenges but also prepare us for the unknowns that lie ahead in an ever-changing world.


Are you having challenges recovering from the emotional effects of the pandemic?

Explore your wellness with the Post-Pandemic Recovery Workbook. This workbook is designed by professionals utilizing the best of the clinical literature on self-improvement to assist you in achieving your wellness goals.


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