Reducing stress as people head back to the workplace

Posted at 6:23 PM, May 11, 2020

OMAHA, Neb. — As more businesses begin reopening, more employees are heading back to work. But they shouldn't expect everything to be back to normal as the pandemic is still affecting thousands.

UNO Associate Professor of Counseling Ph.D. Abby Bjornsen-Ramig explains, "The coronavirus pandemic has obviously changed the way that most of us work and so even when things do reopen, it's probably not going to look the way that it did the first of the year."

That's why it's important for individuals to have a plan when heading back, to minimize stress.

"Feeling anxious, sad, irritable, maybe lacking motivation...that wasn't an issue before,” said Bjornsen-Ramig. “Everything might feel really overwhelming or you might have difficulty sleeping or concentrating. Those things are all kind of to be expected when going back to work."

Marie Kliewer is a Licensed aesthetician at Seven Salon in West Omaha. She started working last week after nearly two months off.

"It was crazy when I was driving here,” she said. “I felt like it was my first day at work all over again. I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, do I know what I’m doing?’"

She was excited to drop back into work even though her hours and the way she does her job have changed.

"I’m working three nine to nine shifts,” she said. “A lot of the hair stylists are doing that as well. Very long shifts but we definitely get breaks. We can go outside and take our masks off."

Experts say when returning to work, employees should expect some changes but to better cope recommend: communicating with your managers, asking good questions, establishing a newly updated work routine, setting expectations and discussing leeways with managers.

"Having those expectations really clearly communicated by everyone up front is going to be of critical importance to managing some of that stress," said Bjornsen-Ramig.

Companies need to be transparent with their employees as well, ready to answer any questions they may have.

KMTV Human Resources Representative Amanda Hickman said, “Any company, when they're considering bringing back people into the building, needs to have a really good plan of action in place."

Being in constant contact with her bosses, Kliewer feels happy and safe being back at the salon.

"That really helped ease all my nerves and concerns going back because I would talk to my bosses and they would just sit there and I’d vent to them about anything and everything,” she said.

Taking the first couple of steps back to work may seem strange with all the changes. But it is the first step back into life before the pandemic.