Workers tackle new stress when returning to the office

New York (AP) — Last summer, Julio Carmona began the process of completely leaving the remote work schedule by appearing in the office once a week.

A new hybrid schedule at his work at a state agency in Stratford, Connecticut allows him to spend time cooking dinner for his family and taking his teenage daughter to basketball. Did.

But in the coming months, he faces the possibility of more mandatory days in the office. And it is stressing the three fathers.

Carmona, 37, whose father died of COVD-19 last year, is worried about getting the virus, but has also checked other anxiety lists: increased costs for lunch and gas, newborn babies. Day care costs, and a healthy work-life balance that you struggle to maintain.

“When it comes to work-life balance, working from home has significantly reduced stress, much less distracting,” said Carmona, who works in the Treasury department of Connecticut’s children and family department. This will improve your productivity. “

As more companies require return to the office, workers will need to readjust to pre-pandemic rituals such as long commuting, childcare management, and physical interaction with colleagues. However, such routines became even more difficult after two years. For example, spending more time with colleagues can increase exposure to the coronavirus, but inflation increases the cost of lunch and commuting.

According to the Associated Press’s April survey, among workers who are remote and return directly more than one day a week, the situation is generally better than worse, and productivity is not reduced. , Productivity has improved. The National Poll Center shows. However, the levels of stress on these workers are high.

Overall, an April AP-NORC poll of employed adults found that 16% worked remotely, 13% worked both remotely and face-to-face, and 72% worked only face-to-face. I am answering.

Thirty-nine percent of employees who worked from home but returned to the office said the overall situation improved after returning directly to work, and 23% said the situation worsened. 38% say things remain the same. Forty-five percent said work was improved and 18% said it was worse.

However, 41% of returning workers say the amount of stress they experience has worsened. 22% said they had improved and 37% said they hadn’t changed.

Even workers who have met in person during the pandemic are more negative than positive about how the pandemic affected their work life. 35% said the general situation got worse and 20% said it improved. 50% said their stress got worse and 11% said it improved. 39% say there is no difference.

At least half of face-to-face workers say that balance of responsibilities, potential COVID exposure at work, commuting and social interactions are sources of stress. However, less than one-third call these “major” sources of stress.

People with children are more likely to report that returning home is having a negative impact, partly due to concerns about keeping their families safe from COVID and maintaining a better work-life balance. I am. Most have said that employers can help reduce stress if they offer more flexible work options and workplace safety precautions from the virus. But for some workers, physical returns can be difficult to navigate in any way.

“Many people are accustomed to working from home. Jessica Edwards, National Director of Strategic Alliance and Development for the National Mental Illness Family Alliance (National Mental Illness Family Alliance), said: “For a company, it’s all about mental health and communicating about it. They shouldn’t be afraid to ask their employees how they’re actually doing it. . “

Companies like Vanguard are now expanding virtual wellness workshops that began early in or before the pandemic. We are also expanding the benefits to include meditation apps and virtual therapies. Target, on the other hand, doesn’t set the required returns, giving the team the flexibility to adjust the meeting time to early or late in the day according to the employee’s schedule.

Many are at stake. According to the National Psychiatric Family Alliance, untreated mental illness is estimated to cost companies up to $ 300 billion annually, primarily due to productivity impacts, absenteeism, and increased medical and disability costs. It can be expensive.

Russ Glass, CEO of the online mental health and well-being platform Headspace Health, has quadrupled the use of behavioral health coaching during a pandemic compared to the day before the pandemic, with 5 clinical services such as treatment and mental support. He said it had doubled. Using apps such as Ginger and Headspace, the company serves more than 100 million people and 3,500 companies. Some of my biggest concerns are anxiety about getting infected with COVID-19 and struggling with a balance between work and life.

“We haven’t seen it fade. That level of care is still high,” Glass said.

The constant wave of new virus surges did not help.

Francine Yoon, a 24-year-old food scientist at Ajinomoto Healthhand Nutrition North America in Itasca, Illinois, has worked mostly directly since the pandemic, including his current job, which he started last fall. According to Yun, her company helped alleviate anxiety by creating closed rooms and empty offices for those who were feeling some anxiety about being near her colleagues.

However, moving with his parents in his early 60s last year has raised anxiety because he is worried that the virus will be transmitted to his parents. She said anxiety arises with each surge in new cases.

“When the number of cases is small, I’m okay and I’m sure it’s okay. When a surge occurs, I have to be careful.”

As for Carmona, he is trying to reduce stress and is considering attending an online meditation session in his office. He is also thinking of carpooling to reduce gas costs.

“I’m one of the people who take it every day. You have to try to balance your stress levels because you hit the ground thinking that you can get crazy. Because. “


The AP-NORC poll of 1,085 adults was conducted April 14-18 using samples extracted from the NORC probability-based AmeriSpeak panel designed to represent the US population. All respondents have a sampling error margin of plus or minus 3.9 percentage points.


New York AP staff writer Halleluya Hadero contributed to this report.


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