How Introverts Can Decrease Their Return-to-the-Office Anxiety

An introvert at work

Getting called back into the office? It’s time to prepare your back-to-work toolbox.               

You prayed that the day would never come. However, as more people continue to return to work in non-virtual locations, you receive the “all hands on deck” email in your inbox. Your boss wants everyone back in the office. If you’re the self-reflective sort who took to the isolation of telecommuting like the proverbial duck to water, you might feel understandably upset. After all, by working from home, you got to save time and energy by ditching the lunchroom small talk, constant interruptions, and soul-sucking commute.

If you’re dreading going back to work, here’s how introverts can decrease return-to-the-office anxiety. 

6 Ways Introverts Can Decrease Their Return-to-the-Office Anxiety 

1. Prepare your back-to-work toolbox.

Remember when you were a child going back to school? You probably had the same stomach mingling of excitement, dread, and all-around anxiety then, too. What did you do to ease your agony? You prepared (which we introverts happen to be very good at). You can follow the same principles to alleviate a case of the nerves as an adult. 

Many of your “purchases” won’t involve money at all. If you haven’t already incorporated a daily mindfulness practice into your routine, now is the time to start. Print out a list of mini-mindfulness activities that you can practice at work and start using them every day. You might also want to begin a yoga or meditation routine. 

The earlier you start using these activities when you otherwise feel calm, the better. Think of it as on-the-job training. You’re always unsure the first few days, but once you get the standard operating procedures under your belt, you’re able to handle more stressful situations with grace. 

Prepare your physical space, too. Small changes, such as moving to a desk next to a window to take advantage of natural light, can ease anxiety — just gazing at natural scenes decreases stress levels. If a cubicle is your only option, adorn it with photos of spectacular natural vistas and plenty of potted plants for indoor air quality. An aromatherapy device with a scent, like lavender, can ease stress levels if it doesn’t disturb other office dwellers. 

2. Ask for flexibility — if you cannot work from home every day, ask for a hybrid work schedule.

You are far from alone if you’re an introvert who dreads the return to the office in the first place. Many workers prefer a hybrid schedule with occasional forays into the public, while others are content to dwell behind their closed doors forever. Nearly 40 percent of recent survey respondents indicated that they would rather quit their jobs than return to a full-time in-office grind, however. 

If the thought of your daily commute — followed by nonstop dealings with colleagues — leaves you exhausted before you even leave your house, have a heart-to-heart with your boss about working from home. Unfortunately, adults in the U.S. lack many common-sense protections, such as the right to work from home if they are medically fragile. However, employers might be a bit more amenable now during the “Great Resignation,” even if they previously denied such requests. Plus, research has found that working from home makes people more productive.

Remember, you do have the option of seeking alternative employment. Many more progressive and sustainable companies understand that requiring a daily commute isn’t always necessary. In reality, it increases greenhouse gas emissions and forces employees to spend unpaid hours sitting in traffic. Perhaps now is the time to polish your resume!

3. Dress for success — the more confident you feel, the more confident you will be.

It may seem like a trivial detail, but you don’t need to add “feeling awkward about your appearance” to your list of insecurities. Select your first-day-back-to-the-office apparel with all the care you once dedicated to the first day of school. 

Ask about any applicable dress code changes and identify your office environment — business formal, business professional, business casual, or casual. Try choosing a neutral outfit with one highlight piece, like a necklace or wrist watch, to look polished without drawing excess attention to yourself (which we introverts loathe anyway). 

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4. Use the “buddy system” — reconnect with your favorite colleagues.

Remember how relieved you felt as a kid when you spied your best friend in the cafeteria? The buddy system can make any intimidating experience more pleasant. 

Communicate and reconnect with your colleagues before you return to the office and make plans for the week. Perhaps you and your best cubicle mate can plan a catch-up lunch together on your first day. Looking forward to spending time with coworkers you did enjoy takes the sting off of having to return. 

5. Stay focused on results by immersing yourself in work tasks.

Ultimately, though, your boss hired you to work, not socialize. One way to ease your anxiety is to throw yourself into producing exceptional results, which comes naturally to us introverts anyway.

When you become engrossed in the task at hand, you enter a productive “flow state” that isn’t compatible with anxiety. You might find that the workday flies by and the closing bell arrives before you know it. You’ll also feel a potent sense of accomplishment that can make you temporarily forget the indignity of evening commuter traffic. 

Focusing on results has an additional perk beyond taking your mind off of your work-related anxieties. It could set you up for a nice promotion — and puts you in a better position to ask for a full or partial telecommuting schedule at your next performance evaluation. 

6. Practice anxiety reduction measures daily, before panic strikes.

Finally, think of your coping mechanisms the way you do your car. You wouldn’t let your vehicle sit in the driveway undriven until you needed it for an emergency — you need to keep the fluids flowing regularly for everything to function as intended. Your interventions work the same way — practice anxiety-reduction techniques before panic strikes. 

Instead of using your breaks to kvetch about how awful things are, go for a 10-minute walk. Nature is an elixir for introverts, and the fresh, outdoor air will perk up your brain cells, boosting your productivity for the rest of the day. Plus, these precious moments of solitude will help recharge your introverted batteries. 

You might reward yourself with a new end-of-the-day ritual that serves a dual purpose. Why not find a peaceful yoga class that meets after your workday? The combination of meditation and gentle movement will help to ease any physiological aftershocks from the day’s anxiety and leave you feeling peaceful for your evening. If live classes don’t fit your budget, you can find videos on YouTube to do in your living room for free.

Those who readily took to working from home might feel understandable angst about returning to the office. However, rest assured that you can take steps to decrease your return-to-office anxiety using a few simple, intentional lifestyle changes. If I can do it, so can you.

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