Scared to return to work?

Author: Bruce J.Little

You’re free to go back to work. But do you want to? 


As the social distancing regulations ease, an increasing number of people have been able to return to their places of work. However, the global infection rate continues to climb, and it is only fitting that we have some reservations and concerns as we pack our briefcases to go. 


You may be overreacting


In an article for Forbes, author and professor emeritus at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Bryan Robinson writes: “Minimizing the virus isn’t good preparation, but neither is overkill, overblown coverage and over-reactions. It’s easy to freak out when you see these drastic changes and face uncertainty. The key is to remain level-headed, sensible and avoid stressing yourself out.”


Robinson goes on to explain that it is uncertainty that causes most of our anxiety because our minds associate uncertainty with danger. This is when, he says, the brain “assumes the worst, over-personalizes threats and jumps to conclusions.”


The real threat


Taking his cue from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Robinson suggests bearing in mind that 80 per cent of those infected will not get seriously ill and that although there is a high transmission rate, there is a low mortality rate. “However, it’s important to remain vigilant, calm and level-headed and follow recommendations from the experts”, he says. 


There are also mental health challenges posed due to the threat of fear and anxiety


In an interview with Robert Preidt featured on WebMD, psychiatrist Dr Luan Phan says: "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."


What can be done 


Communicate with your employers and ensure that there are measures and solutions in place to keep you safe. “If there aren't precautions in the workplace, speak up to protect yourself and your co-workers”, advises Dr Phan. 


In an article for The New York Times, social psychologist Dr David DeSteno writes that when it comes to distorted fears about this coronavirus, “the solution isn’t to try to think more carefully. It’s to trust the experts.” Ask your employers what expert advice and solutions they are implementing. 


WebMD suggests the following helpful tips for returning to work: 


Adhere to the recommended safety precautions:


  • Amongst others; frequent handwashing, keeping sanitizers and disinfectant wipes handy, keeping surfaces clean, wearing a mask and refraining from shaking hands with others during interactions. 

  • Try to maintain a distance of six feet (two meters) between you and the next person, avoid crowded areas, favour meetings on digital platforms and work from home whenever possible. 

  • Try to eat at least five fruits and vegetables every day, stop smoking and limit your intake of alcohol.


Hopefully, this will help it to feel less like going ‘back to the grindstone’ and more like getting ‘back in the saddle’. 




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