Go back

Return to work after isolation may be stressful, says academic


Free e-book launched to help people cope with changed workplace conditions and routines

People returning to work after the Covid-19 lockdown may experience “reverse culture shock” in adjusting to new workplace conditions and routines, a University of Tasmania psychologist has said.

Kimberley Norris, a lecturer at the college of health and medicine in Hobart, has launched a free e-book—The Path Back from Social Isolation—to help people cope with the change. The university will also provide a short course on workplace reintegration.

Norris says that returning to work after a period of isolation can cause increased anxiety, mood fluctuations and a loss of identity.

“Workers may also experience increased cognitive load characterised by memory exhaustion, poor attention and concentration, as well as difficulties in planning and processing.”

She says people won’t be “returning to normal” and most workplaces will have introduced planning, health and hygiene changes that may create difficult emotional and psychological reactions.

“We will never truly go back to the way things were because of changes in societal norms, attitudes, behaviours and even in neural pathways in our brains.”

The e-book outlines strategies that can help individuals identify and deal with the stress of reconnecting to the physical and emotional demands of returning to work. 

Norris says reverse culture shock and sensory overload are typical reactions and their impact should not be underestimated. The possibility of a secondary wave of Covid-19 infections and a potential return to isolation could also affect readjustment and motivation.