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Its unprecedented times all around the world, and I hope you are taking care of both your mental and physical health, amid this horrible pandemic!

So, like all the companies, my company has been working remotely for a couple of months now. While it hasn't been all smooth sailing, but this remote work has been a blessing in disguise for me personally, since I suffer from social anxiety. While working from my home, I have felt my most comfortable ever since I started my job (this is the first job in my career btw). Currently, I have been here approx 2 yrs, and tbh the level of anxiety decreased significantly for me during this work from home time. Now, out of the blue, owing to the decreasing number of cases in our country (they're still in thousands/day btw), the company announced mandatory return to office for all the employees.

Ever since that news came to me, I have not been able to properly calm myself down. I am feeling anxious and restless (I am writing this at 5 am in the morning, due to not being able to sleep). Thus, I think that this is not something that will be beneficial for my mental health.

Now, I have currently tried convincing my employer to let me work from home, though the reasons I stated were completely unrelated to my mental state, but equally valid like transportation issues. Unfortunately, it didn't work, and they asked me to come work from office anyways. Thus, now I am thinking, should I inform them about the real reason I am asking to continue working from home? I have read about it, and most people are suggesting against it, though some sources are also suggesting that informing them may yield some benefits. Thus, I find myself in this conundrum!

Note: I have already informed my reporting manager about this, but it was mostly through conversation and no written piece of document has been communicated from my side regarding my condition. But since the times are unprecedented, thus, if you think desperate times call for desperate measures, please let me know!

Thank you so much for reading through my (long & boring :P) post. I have been thinking how to gracefully navigate through this situation, so as to avoid myself unnecessary vulnerability, or loss. Thus let me know what y'all think about this and how to approach the situation further!

Thanks once again!!

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    Is this a diagnosed condition? – AsheraH Jul 13 at 4:40
  • Would really help to know which country. – user Jul 13 at 11:32
  • Which country is this? – guest Jul 13 at 17:16
  • Which industry do you work in? Software development is very different than doing data entry for a 100 year old insurance company for example. – HenryM Jul 13 at 17:42
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You're not alone. A lot of people have anxiety. But we can't use this an excuse.

Try to interact with your family members, friends, neighbours and develop your social interactions. This can help you get out of anxiety.

I'm a college student and I do have anxiety. I tried to use this lock-down period to relieve myself from anxiety, by doing meditation and using auto-commands like "You should be bold enough to face people", "You can do it" and so on. But actually it didn't help a lot.

Then I started interacting with my friends, relatives and neighbours. Even while talking with my neighbour I had severe anxiety, my palms and feet started sweating. I found myself in an awkward position. But we can't escape, right? You can't lock yourself in your house permanently and do all the work from home. You have to step out.

Last month I found that the main cause of this anxiety was "worrying about small things" like, "What'd he think if hadn't filled this form correctly?", " What'd my teachers and friends think if I didn't answer correctly?". So I'm currently training myself to come out of this anxiety by taking the things in the way they should be.

This doesn't mean that I'm telling you to take things for granted. Take small things lightly. These tiny little things cause anxiety most of the times. You have a bright life outside.

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    This doesn't really answer the question: should this condition be disclosed to the employer? – ChatterOne Jul 13 at 14:20
  • Apart from not answering the main question, as pointed out by @ChatterOne, I think your answer would be improved a lot by "seek professional help, if your anxieties interfere with your ability to lead your life!" – I'm with Monica Jul 14 at 9:51
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I do not recommend it, and you will come off badly to your manager. Unfortunately anxiety is not a strong enough case for working from home and you'll have to just suck it up like the rest of us.

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It may be useful to have another conversation with your manager about the issue along the lines of: "As well as the reasons I discussed earlier - my social anxiety has improved greatly from working from home and I'm worried about the effect of returning to our place of work on my mental health"

I would try to offer some middle ground other than "I want to be a fully remote worker" which you have mentioned that your manager has rejected. Something along the lines of going to your workplace for 2/3 days per week for a few months or just delaying your return to the office by a period of time for you to address some social anxiety. It would also show a willingness to compromise if you make suggestions for things that can be done in your office that would allow you to imitate your home working enviroment. I don't know if this is working with earphones in for a period of time each day, or moving more of your communication from in-person discussions to email and IM.

It seems like this is a stressful issue that you are thinking a lot about so I would also just caution against overloading your manager with repeated requests.

My final recommendation is to search for new opportunities elsewhere that would allow you to work remotely full time - as this is clearly important to your wellbeing but is not something your current employer seems keen to offer. I think if you were working well in an office environment before it would seem like a regression to pursue remote work purely to avoid anxiety - but I'm not a doctor and have no visibility on how miserable you were pre-COVID.

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If your anxiety is causing you medical issues to the point of missing on sleep and worrying about your mental health, you should consider visiting a medical professional to get a diagnosis.

You'll have a much stronger case (and better tools to cope with your anxiety) if you can get some advice and a written note from a doctor.

Alternatively, if you are unable to perform your work in a way that makes your company happy, you might have to look for a different place to work.

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Mental illness is just like any physical illness in terms of what your employer needs to do to help you.

In the UK you can inform your employer that you are having health problems that will be exacerbated by returning to the office. The key thing is to have an idea of how you can help your employer get what they want (you back in the office) while also addressing your issues.

For example you might consider asking to delay your return for a week or two so that they have time to get the office running smoothly again with appropriate PPE in place. Ask for information about how the workplace has been secured as that will help reassure you. Your employer should have risk assessments and other documentation, and could supply some photos of things like work area dividers.

You might ask about your work area specifically and if there are any adaptations that could be made to help you, such as additional shielding or perhaps moving your desk to a less busy area, or closer to an exit. Whatever will help your condition.

If you pitch it as you trying to be accommodating and asking for reasonable assistance you will likely get a better response.

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If this mental illness is diagnosed, then it can be treated as the physical illness that it is.

But also – and especially if it is not "diagnosed" – get help! Mental illness is especially devastating (potentially ...) because it interferes with its own treatment, and because "it hits as close to home" as anything in your life possibly could. Make it your business to talk to many different health professionals as you can about what you are facing and what you can possibly do about it.

By the way, don't overlook nutrition and the possibility of something as seemingly mundane as "food allegies." I once heard of a person who suffered severe and obviously-mental symptoms that were finally traced back to an allergy for broccoli.

Our wonderful brains are things which run on "voodoo chemistry." (It's fairly amazing that they work at all.) Obviously this is not a medical forum but – don't simply stop with the first diagnosis that you come to. You are indeed facing a physical medical condition, affecting what is still the most-mysterious part of your body. Good luck.

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