Returning to the office can cause anxiety for professionals with ADHD–especially lawyers with ADHD who have to bill 1800+ hours. Let’s look at how we got here. It was just about two years ago, when your working life got disrupted. All of a sudden, you were working from home. Your structure and supports were gone. Your “home office” consisted of an island or table in your eating area or a desk in your bedroom. There were too many distractions including food, pets, kids, roommates or partners, video games etc. You felt isolated and lonely. You wasted incredible amounts of time and got little to nothing done. All the things that made you feel comfortable were disrupted. Gradually, things got better. You created new routines, new structures and supports, your home office has become your comfortable safe place. You don’t want to leave it. Better yet, you are more productive than ever! Now, THEY are going to disrupt your life again by forcing you to return to the office either full time or part time, and you are anxious.
Feeling anxious about returning to the office is understandable. Anxiety and ADHD go hand-in-hand. Over 50% of people with ADHD report suffering from anxiety. Accepting that you are not alone in this, can bring some relief. https://www.additudemag.com/back-to-normal-reentry-anxiety-adhd-adults-children/
Take a deep breath. You can do this.
Transitions are challenging
The beauty of the ADHD brain is that they are not alike. Some of us get all fired up by the novelty of change and actually thrive in it. Others abhor change and can be paralyzed by it. In all likelihood, you are reacting to this change like you do with other changes in your life. The way you successfully handled transitions in the past may point to some ADHD friendly strategies you can use now to overcome your anxiety about returning to the office.
What worked for you in the past?
If you don’t remember what you did in the past, don’t worry. You are not losing your mind. It’s your ADHD working memory challenge. Sometimes, we just forget things. How do we get it back? Sometimes, a memory flood will work. If you live with someone you trust, talk about what life was like when you were going to the office every day. Your roommate or partner can help you reconstruct your before and after work routine. A trusted colleague can help you remember your in-the-office routine. Hopefully, your memories of life before Covid will flood back. If it doesn’t, don’t despair.
Sometimes breaking something big and overwhelming into smaller chunks makes it seem less overwhelming. Try answering these questions and adding some of your own:
- What did you do to prepare to go to sleep (prepare meals, lay out clothes, pack backpack etc)
- What time did you go to bed?
- What time did you rise in the morning?
- What time did you leave the house?
- What was your morning routine?
- How did you get to the office?
What is working for you now that you want to retain?
Perhaps there are aspects of working from home that are really helpful to you. How can they be adapted to your new work situation? When I was home on maternity leave, after my spouse and older kids left for school and work, I used to take 30 minutes for myself with coffee to plan the rest of my day. After my coffee break, I was focused on what I had to accomplish. I took that practice back with me to the office and found that it both eased my transition back to work and helped me start my day with intention (or goals.)
What else can I do?
Here are some other things you can do to prepare yourself for your return to the office:
- Do your work clothes fit? If not, better make a plan to deal with it.
- Where’s your backpack or bag?
- What goes in your bag?
- Do you need ID cards, key cards, transit passes etc.?
- Do you take food with you?
- Do you need to reactivate your gym membership?
- Is your gym bag packed?
- If you don’t remember how long it took you to get to work, do a dry run.
How about changing what didn’t work for you?
Finally, now that you are taking a look at returning to the office, consider what did not work for you and how you are going to change that. For instance, if you have a hard time working in your assigned office because it’s in an area full of distractions, this is a good time to request a change. Or if you learned that you were more productive if you started your workday later, ask for a later start time. If you learned things working from home that made you happier or more productive, this is the time to bring those lessons to the office. There is no denying that returning to the office can be anxiety provoking for professionals with ADHD but there are things that you can do to lessen the anxiety.
If you need assistance navigating your return to the office, coaching can help. https://www.partnerupcoaching.com/adhd/