News Detail

Jane Simoni is quoted in this KUOW article about heading back to the office.

Here's what heading back to the office might look like

BY Kate Walters, Angela King, and Katie Campbell

After roughly a year of working from home, Michael Stephens’ first day back in her office felt like the first day of junior high.

“There’s a super nervous energy in terms of what to expect, but also kind of a dread,” Stephens said.

She woke early, didn’t drink much coffee because she was already amped, and chose music that made her feel happy and comforted on her drive in.

Stephens is an event representative with the Seattle Center. When the pandemic hit, her job changed completely. Like many others, Stephens began working remotely.

While she didn’t love that experience, the thought of going back into the office was a nerve-wracking one.

As vaccination efforts continue across the state, with more than five million doses now administered across Washington, more and more people are facing a return to physical work spaces.

Of course, most workers never had the option to work from home during the pandemic. Some lost their jobs, others had jobs that can’t be done remotely.

But for those who were able to retreat to their living rooms, kitchens, and bedrooms, the potential return to work can be an exhilarating prospect for some, and an anxiety inducing nightmare for others.

We talked to experts about what the return to work might look like.

What will a return to the physical office mean for mental health?

Remote work has looked different for different people. So their baseline experience will impact what a return to the office might look like. That’s according to UW psychology professor Jane Simoni.

Simoni said people have done better or worse with remote work for a range of reasons. For instance, those who struggle with attention deficit disorders or social anxiety may be less stressed or more productive at home. On the other end of the spectrum, people may have struggled working from home due to things like an inadequate setup, lack of childcare, or loneliness.

However, Simoni said people are resilient; they weathered lockdowns and they’ll get through a return to working in the office if that’s what lies ahead.

What advice is there for people who may be going back into the office?

Simoni urges people to temper their expectation.

“I would try to encourage folks not to think too much everything’s going to be much worse, or it’s all going to be much better. Because obviously the reality is going to be somewhere in between.”

Simoni also advises that if people can ease back in that may help.

Read the entire article here.