Returning to the Office: How to Deal with ‘Reverse Culture Shock’ From WFH

Waking up five minutes before a Zoom call is now the new normal. After over a year of quarantine, many seem to have accustomed themselves to the pace of this stagnant routine. I, for one, am oddly developing a mild fondness for working from home. Despite the desperation for human contact, the aftermaths of COVID-19 will leave many of us confused, creating some sort of unfamiliarity similar to that of a reverse culture shock.

Reverse culture shock is the emotional and psychological distress suffered by some people when they return home after a number of years spent overseas. This can result in unexpected difficulty in readjusting to the culture and values of the home country.”

Calling ourselves a ‘pandemic survivor’ may seem like an exaggeration, yet the impact this virus has left us is no less than that of a zombie apocalypse. When the time comes to reopen our business, it is crucial for brands to approach the situation with the same sense of tact and mindfulness. To prepare ourselves, consider the following.

Take it Slow in the Beginning

The moment we return to the office, be warned that our rusty selves will not operate the same way as we used to. But if there’s a silver lining to this whole pandemic, it’s the growing leniency towards the future of virtual workspaces. Flexible work arrangements should continue post-crisis as a way to ease our way back into our usual routines. Employees, for instance, could be allowed to work from home on selective days until they feel comfortable committing fully to their typical schedules.

Don’t Overlook the Symptoms of Burnout

The effects of the pandemic have imposed a great amount of stress and anxiety on everyone. In the words of Mark Henick, a mental health strategist, “There’s going to be residual stress, depression, certainly financial pressures, learning how to re-engage with the world in this new way.” While news of reopening may present some sense of hope and excitement in our current state, feelings of burnout will likely linger beyond COVID times. During periods of recovery, the health and safety of your employees should remain your priority.

  • As leaders, address any health concerns of your employees individually through regular 1:1 check-ins
  • Schedule meetings with counselors or therapists as a form of recovery treatment
  • Utilize comprehensive team-fit tools to understand the natures of your team and how the pandemic may have affected them, both physically and psychologically

Many of us are going to come out of this crisis with changes we never thought we’d experience. As the end date to this nightmare is finally in sight with vaccines rolling out progressively, when the time comes – whether it’s to hire, onboard, or to optimize your team’s potentials – we hope to be the guiding hand to your success in HR.

This post was most recently updated on April 27, 2021.