Last summer, Julio Carmona began the process of weaning from a completely remote work schedule by appearing in the office once a week.

A new hybrid schedule at his job at a government agency in Stratford, Connecticut, still allowed him to spend time cooking dinner for his family and taking his teenage daughter to basketball.

But in the next few months he will face the possibility of more mandatory days in the office. And it creates stress for a father of three.

Carmona, 37, whose father died of COVD-19 last year, is worried about the virus, but he also notes a list of other concerns: rising lunch and gas costs, day care costs for his newborn baby and his struggle for preservation a healthy work-life balance.

“Working from home was much less stressful when it comes to work-life balance,” said Carmona, who works in finance at the Department of Children and Families of Connecticut. “You’re more productive because it distracts a lot less.”

As more companies require a return to the office, workers must adapt to pandemic rituals such as long commutes, juggling childcare, and physical interaction with colleagues. But two years later, such routines became more complicated. For example, spending more time with colleagues may increase the susceptibility to coronavirus, while inflation has increased the cost of lunch and travel.

Among workers who have been remote and returning in person at least one day a week, more say things have generally improved than worse, and that they have been more productive than less, according to an April poll by The Associated Press-NORC. Shows the Center for Public Relations Research. But the stress levels of these workers are elevated.

Overall, among employed adults, the April AP-NORC poll shows that 16% say they work remotely, 13% work both remotely and in person, and 72% say they only work in person.

Thirty-nine percent of employees who worked from home but returned to the office said that after a personal return to work, things had generally improved, and 23% said things had gotten worse; 38% say everything is still there. 45 percent say the amount of work done has improved and 18 percent has deteriorated.

But 41% of workers who returned said the stress they were experiencing had worsened; 22% say it has improved, and 37% have not changed.

Even workers who were personally present during the pandemic are more negative than positive about how the pandemic has affected their working lives. Thirty-five percent say things have gotten worse overall, and 20 percent say they have gotten better. 50 percent say their stress has worsened, while only 11% say it has gotten better; 39% say there is no difference.

At least half of personal employees say that balancing responsibilities, the potential impact of COVID at work, their commutes and social interactions are sources of stress. But less than a third call these “major” sources of stress.

People with children were more likely to report that their return had adverse effects, some of which were caused by concerns about keeping their families away from COVID and maintaining a better work-life balance. Most said it could help relieve stress if their employer provides more flexible work options and workplace safety measures against the virus. But some workers with physical impact – in any form – will find it difficult to navigate.

“A lot of people have gotten used to working from home. It’s been two years,” said Jessica Edwards, National Director for Strategic Alliances and Development of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, a U.S.-based advocacy group. “It is important for companies to prefer mental health and be communicative in this matter. They should not be afraid to ask their employees how they really are. ”

Companies like Vanguard are now expanding virtual wellness workshops that began in the early days of the pandemic or earlier. They also expand the benefits, including applications for meditation and virtual therapy. Meanwhile, Target, which has not set a mandatory return, gives teams the ability to adjust meeting times earlier or later in the day to take into account staff schedules.

A lot is at stake. The National Alliance on Mental Illness estimates that untreated mental illness can cost companies up to $ 300 billion annually, largely due to impacts on productivity, absenteeism, and increased treatment and disability costs.

Russ Glass, CEO of online platform for mental health and wellness Headspace Health, said he had seen a fourfold surge in the use of behavioral health training and a fivefold surge in clinical services such as therapy and psychiatric care during the pandemic, compared to previous pandemics. days. With programs such as Ginger and Headspace, the company serves more than 100 million people and 3,500 companies. Among the main concerns are concerns about COVID-19 infection and the fight against work-life balance.

“We haven’t seen it decrease. This level of assistance has just remained high,” Glass said.

The constant wave of new viruses has not helped.

Francine Yoon, a 24-year-old food scientist with Ajinomoto Health and Nutrition North America, in Ithaca, Illinois, worked mostly in person after the pandemic, including on her current job, which she began last fall. Yun said her company has helped alleviate anxiety by doing things like creating rooms and empty offices to create more distance for those who experience any form of anxiety about being in close proximity to colleagues.

But moving last year to her older parents, both in their early 60s, has led to some heightened levels of anxiety because she is worried about passing on the virus to them. She said every outbreak of new cases is worrying.

“When there are few cases, I feel comfortable and confident that I’m fine and that I’ll be fine,” she said. “When jumps happen, I can’t help but be careful.”

As for Carmona, he is trying to reduce stress and is considering attending meditation sessions in his office. He is also thinking about a joint transition to reduce gas costs.

“I’m one of those people who takes this from day to day,” he said. “You have to try to keep your stress level balanced because you’re going to kill your brain to the ground by thinking about things that can go straight.”

The AP-NORC survey of 1,085 adults was conducted April 14-18 using a sample taken from the AmeriSpeak panel, based on the NORC probability, which is designed to represent the U.S. population. The tolerance of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 3.9 percentage points.

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