There are as many different experiences of the past year as there are humans on earth. And there are about as many reactions to the endless headlines about companies sending employees back to the office.
Maybe you’re rolling your eyes because you never stopped going to an office in the first place. Or maybe those notifications are exactly what you’ve been refreshing your phone for: the promise of a day spent looking at new people. Maybe you’re fortunate enough to live and work alone but feeling some kind of way about this next stage of things—part of you misses lunch with coworkers but a much stronger part has adapted to the comforts and psychological ease of working in isolation. I’m in the last boat.
While I’m not among the risk-averse who still wear gloves, I get the appeal of a routine. I share oxygen with exactly one cautious person two nights a week and have for some time. I’m feeling pretty settled into this solo loop. That’s to say the idea of sitting in a conference room any time soon doesn’t exactly sound like a refreshing glass of water—more like an ice bucket over the head. On many levels, I just don’t feel ready.
The good news, psychologist Christine Runyan says, is that humans are good at acclimating to change. “Difficult as this time has been, we have found ways to adapt to what our conditions have demanded of us,” she says. And that’s true whether you’ve been an at-home knowledge worker, a coffee shop barista, or a healthcare professional, like those Runyan, sees at Tend Health, the consulting practice she co-founded.
“What feels okay for you might feel like a heavy lift for somebody else. Self-awareness is a superpower.”
What influences how severe the stress effects of loosening measures might be? So there’s complexity. There are people who’ve been essential workers and people who’ve been working from home. People who don’t know anybody who’s been sick and people who have been sick themselves or have had family members affected. From a neurological perspective, we have all accommodated to these tighter parameters and those now feel safe because we’ve adapted to them.