Some workers get re-entry blues, anxiety after returning to office
Employers try to ease workplace transition as psychologist warns of 'shock to workers' daily routines'
As workplaces shift from the default mode of working from home to a more flexible arrangement, some employees are feeling anxious while adjusting to the changes.
A software engineer, who wanted to be known only as Ms Valerie, 25, had eased into her working environment at home since the circuit breaker.
But since April 1, she has been working in the office daily, a transition she is struggling with.
"I'm trying my best to adjust to this new way of working, but it has heightened my anxiety," said Ms Valerie, who suffers from frequent panic attacks.
She also has to spend at least 90 minutes travelling from her flat in Punggol to her workplace in Clementi.
"I spoke to my supervisor about my anxiety and I'm thankful he is understanding. I get to come in to work a little later than everyone else. Of course, I make sure I'm very productive during the day," she said.
On March 24, Education Minister Lawrence Wong announced that up to 75 per cent of employees may return to the workplace at any one time from April 5, up from 50 per cent.
The Health Ministry added in a press statement that the requirement for employees to work from home for at least half their working time will also be lifted.
Ms Roxanne Lim, 30, who works in branding, told TNP she will start working in the office at least twice a week from this month.
"This change is pretty huge for me because I started work (at my new company) when it was Dorscon orange, so we were all working from home then," she said, referring to the colour-coded framework that provides guidelines during a disease situation.
Ms Lim said she liked working from home as it gave her more time with her son, who is two and has developmental delays.
"We definitely grew closer during that period. But I guess I'm okay with this new arrangement. It will just take some getting used to," she added.
Like Ms Valerie, Ms Lim has to travel more than an hour from her flat in Simei to her office in Joo Koon in Pioneer.
Clinical psychologist Chad Yip advised parents heading back to the office to draw clear boundaries between work and personal time.
"Communicate with your children to ensure they understand that by going back to offices, it does not mean that you will spend less time with them," he said.
Other employees TNP spoke to were eager to return to the office to get back into the groove of things.
An accountant, 23, who wanted to be known only as Ms Koh, said: "Things move faster when we work in the office and I feel more productive too."
While some employees may be open to such changes, Mr Yip said others may need more time to adjust to the new working arrangements due to their personal commitments.
Employees may even experience re-entry anxiety as the sudden changes may be "a shock to their daily routines", he added.
"It is thus good (for employers) to have regular, open communication with employees to better understand how they are coping," he said.
"(Employees should also not) hesitate to seek professional help if it feels like the problems are not going away despite their best efforts," he added.
Mr Kevin McGuigan, managing director of 3M in South-east Asia, told TNP: "While we are progressively bringing our employees back on-site, we are doing so with increased flexibility.
"We have refreshed 3M's flexible work programme, so employees have more autonomy to customise when and where they work best."
Digital services company Ricoh Singapore is introducing an option to stagger start times to minimise exposure of its staff in crowded common spaces.
Mr Ben Chong, managing director of Ricoh, said: "To ensure that everyone transitions smoothly to the new working arrangements, we are also conducting more catch-up sessions with all employees."
Mr Patrick Chew, head of operational risk management at OCBC Bank, told TNP their office workforce requirements have been regularly calibrated to align with the regulatory requirements.
"Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have been agile in the way we introduced new initiatives, practices and measures to adapt and transform the way we work. We will continue to do so as the situation progresses," he added.