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Many in Omaha metro area experiencing return-to-work anxiety

Posted at 6:40 PM, May 07, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-07 19:40:54-04

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — The pandemic has changed so many things, including the way we work.

“Honestly, it was a pretty tough time for missionaries in our area,” said Elder Gabriel Kenison.

Elders Cooper Johnston and Kenison are missionaries of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

Most people picture missionaries walking around neighborhoods and knocking on doors, but coronavirus brought that kind of outreach to a halt.

Along with socially distanced volunteering, they have found more unique ways to get involved, like through social media, Zoom and phone calls.

“It's kind of nice because back when we were doing door-to-door, when people don’t want to hear from you they slam the door in your face. But it doesn’t hurt my feelings as much when people just hang up on me,” Johnston said.

Looking ahead, they have some skepticism about returning to normal duties. As Nebraska relaxes COVID-related guidelines, the Church does as well.

“Some people, they’re like, ‘Oh, it doesn’t exist, I don’t know what the past year was,’ and you have people that don’t want you within 40 feet of their home, more than normal, because they’re afraid of the virus. So, I think it’s interesting because I really don’t know, everyone’s going to be so polarized on it that I’m not sure what the expectations are going to be,” Johnston said.

Many Americans are feeling the same. A poll from the American Psychological Association shows nearly half of people in the U.S. feel uneasy about returning to in-person interactions.

Dr. Lauren Edwards, a psychiatrist with Nebraska Medicine, said some of her patients actually saw relief in their symptoms while working from home.

“One thing we know about anxiety is avoidance makes things worse. So now as we are looking at trying to get back to kind of quote-unquote normal, the anxiety is certainly going to start to come back, and maybe with a vengeance,” said Edwards.

For some, more than a year of quiet home offices, working in comfortable clothes and being more productive around the house is coming to an end.

“If you can accept this discomfort and move through it then it will have a lot less power over you,” said Edwards.

Change is always hard, but the missionaries remain optimistic.

“There’s definitely a lot of uncertainty up ahead but I think that it’s also kind of exciting. Like we’ve got a lot of hope in the future,” said Kenison.

Recent research from Gallup indicates that even though remote work has ended for some since last spring, nearly 6-in-10 people are still doing their job remotely at least some of the time.

The study also shows 44% of people want to keep working from home — not necessarily as a precaution, but because they’ve grown to prefer it.

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