(COLUMBUS, Ohio) – After weeks of working from home, furloughs or unemployment, millions of Americans are returning to the workplace as COVID-19 restrictions lift, and the transition may cause fear and anxiety. Experts at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center and Ohio State’s College of Nursing say it’s important to take precautions to avoid infection, but also to deal with the stress of transitioning back to the workplace after weeks of isolation.
“Uncertainty and unpredictability can really create an unhealthy amount of fear and stress, especially when it’s sustained over such a long period of time,” Dr. K. Luan Phan, chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral
Health at Ohio State. “Challenges will remain as businesses reopen, and the typical workplace will look very different following this pandemic. We’re going to have to find new ways to connect with colleagues and work as a team while maintaining our distance and preventing the spread of infection.”
Precautions like taking every employee’s temperature upon arrival, providing masks, keeping workspaces at least six feet apart and being vigilant about wiping down surfaces are important to preventing the spread of the virus, but those actions can also make everyone feel safer.
“Physical and mental health are closely intertwined. While you practice good hygiene and physical distancing in the office, you should also practice stress-reduction,” said Bernadette Melnyk, dean of the College of Nursing and Chief Wellness Officer at Ohio State. “For example, you wash your hands for at least 20 seconds, take the opportunity to take five deep, abdominal breaths. Doing this at least five times a day can reduce anxiety and even lower your blood pressure.”
In addition to stress relief, healthy lifestyle choices like exercising daily, eating a healthy diet and getting plenty of sleep can boost your immune system and help stave off serious illness. Experts say it’s also more important than ever to stay home when you’re feeling sick to help keep yourself and your co-workers healthy.