I'm a therapist with many clients who are dreading going back to an office. Here are 5 tricks I give them to mentally prepare.

I'm a therapist with many clients who are dreading going back to an office. Here are 5 tricks I give them to mentally prepare.
Remind yourself what you enjoyed about being in the office, like having lunch with colleagues. Pressmaster/Shutterstock
  • Amy Morin is an author, psychotherapist, and host of The Verywell Mind Podcast.
  • If you're unhappy about returning to the office, Morin suggests several exercises to help you mentally prepare.
  • Make a list of the positives about going into work, and problem-solve what you'll miss about being at home.

Many people have enjoyed working from home during the pandemic. Whether you've loved watching true crime shows from the couch while you work or you've been more productive by avoiding hallway conversations with your colleagues, you're not alone in wanting to skip returning to the office.

As a therapist, I'm hearing from plenty of people who are dreading the return to the office. Some people say they're going to miss the time they've had with family, while others have grown comfortable spending their workdays alone.

But if you don't have a choice and your office reopening date is looming, here are some steps you can take to muster the mental strength you need and reduce the back-to-work dread.

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1. Create a list of the positive aspects of being in the office

Having a handy list of the positive aspects of going back to work can balance out the negative thoughts you experience when your emotions run high. Anxiety, sadness, and dread can lead to exaggeratedly negative thoughts about how awful going back to work is going to be.

From wearing dress clothes to battling traffic, you can probably think of plenty of things you don't like about going back to work. So it's important to remind yourself that there are some good things about being there too.


Perhaps you enjoy having lunch with your colleagues. Or maybe you know it's good for your mental health to get out of the house.

Try to come up with at least 10 good things about going back to work. Write them down and keep that list handy. When you find yourself dreading the return to the office, read your list.

2. Identify changes that can make going back to the office better

You'll likely find that things have changed quite a bit since you last went into work. You might be working with different people. Or maybe the workplace has instituted some new safety measures.

So it's a great time to consider this a fresh start - and an optimal time to make changes that will make your work life even better.

Some changes might be personal. You might decide it's a great time to start a new workout schedule - like hitting the gym before you go into the office.


You also might identify some professional changes you want to make - like setting better boundaries with your time.

Look at the return to work as a new opportunity, not just going back to the same old job. Take what you've learned from working from home and try to make office life better.

3. Problem-solve the issues you'll miss about being at home

Think about the conveniences you've enjoyed when working from home. Doing laundry during the day, being able to cook your lunch, or having the freedom to run errands might have made your life better.

Consider what steps you can take to enjoy some of those conveniences when you go back to work. Does it make sense to hire a laundry service? Should you hire someone to run errands for you? Would meal prepping on Sundays increase the chances you'll eat a healthy lunch?

In this way, see if you can find creative ways to carry forward some of the conveniences you've enjoyed about working from home.


4. Change the channel in your brain when you're ruminating

When you find yourself rehashing all the things you disliked about being at work or you're predicting all the things that could go wrong, change the channel in your brain.

Get up and do something, like organize a closet or call a friend to talk about something pleasant. But don't let yourself sit there and dwell on unpleasant thoughts you can't do anything about. If you do, you'll just drag yourself down.

5. Establish a transition plan

In an ideal world, going back to work in a slow, scheduled manner works best. That may mean starting out with just two office days per week and working yourself up to five. A slow transition can help you get used to being around people (something most of us haven't done much) and it can help you ease back into a new routine.

If your boss isn't interested in a slow transition plan, don't worry - you can still design a personal transition plan. Get yourself on your back-to-work sleep schedule and start working during your normal hours to get your brain and your body ready to go.

Keep your mind and your options open

You might find that going back into the office isn't as bad as you imagine. It may take a few weeks to get back into the routine but ultimately, it may be better for you. If, however, you discover that your life is enhanced when you work from home, you might look for other opportunities. Remote work is plentiful these days and even though switching jobs might feel daunting, remind yourself that you have choices.