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Many anxious about going back to the office despite loneliness of remote work

Companies have begun bringing their workers back to the office as the economy continues to reopen and more people become vaccinated.

SEATTLE — Working from home made major changes in many people’s lives during the COVID-19 pandemic.

While so many lost the commute, everyone lost interpersonal connections.

Now, people are feeling more distant and isolated.

“When people feel less connected, they feel more lonely,” said psychologist and relationship expert Dr. Karen Bridbord.

It's something so many of us dealt with after bringing the workplace into our homes, and it's taking its toll.

“It can absolutely impact mental health, wellness, and quite frankly, even productivity and feelings of connection to the workplace,” Bridbord explained.

Bridbord said she has been hearing all about the stresses and frustrations that come with collaborating from a distance. For instance, many people talk about feeling extra tension at work this past year because of something as simple as an email or instant message.

“It's really easy when you're sending out an email to just kind of try to get the content across. But what happens is that the tone of the message doesn't always follow or isn't exactly what people are intending to send,” she said.

Going back to the office might take away things like Zoom meetings, but it's also bringing on a whole new wave of social anxiety.

“I think that people feel out of practice around being in the same space as colleagues,” she said.

She said that as workers begin to get back out there, that anxiety is sure to fade.

“It is important to recognize, you know, that anxiety tends to increase when we actually don't do the behavior that we're anxious about, right. So, we really want to get ourselves out there,” she said.

To help smooth that transition back into the workplace, or even if you're staying at home, Bridbord’s advice is to reach out to others, ask people about their new interests, ask about their work from home experience.

Just being curious about coworkers' lives can go a long way.