NMRT November Online Discussion: Adapting to a Changing Work Environment

By Kim Cull

The November discussion focused on a topic that we all face regardless of our profession – changing work environments. Our work environments are often changing and in some type of fluctuation. Generally, we face change because of a change in leadership, a new coworker coming onboard, a change in our own employment status, a change in job responsibilities, or in the case of 2020, a pandemic changing how we offer services and where we do our work. This month, our discussion was focused on ways our jobs may have changed and advice that we would give others on how to adapt and cope with changes at work.

Panta Rhei

The Greek philosopher Heraclitus often argued that life can be summed up as panta rhei, or life is flux. Change is essential to life because nothing is permanent. With that understanding, we need to be prepared for change in all aspects of our lives. Yes, change is difficult and often unexpected, but instead of fighting change, we should embrace it. We cannot stop change from happening, but we can decide how we accept and adapt to that change.

Coping with Change

How can we cope with change and the stress that comes from change? First, it is necessary to identify how we each deal with change on an individual basis. Do you practice avoidance coping which “is a maladaptive form of coping in which a person changes their behavior to avoid thinking about, feeling, or doing difficult things,” or active coping where you address the problem head on? Avoidance coping can be a natural response to any situation, but avoiding the change or problem can just lead to even more stress. So, if you naturally lean towards avoidance coping, try to change your thinking, and come up with ways to address the changes head on.

Good news is there are many ways to deal with change and stress. Are you now working remotely because of the pandemic and feeling unsupported and alone? Maintaining relationships with coworkers and friends is so important during stressful changes. Find new ways to communicate with others outside of traditional in-person meetings. If you are feeling negative in any way, your colleagues may also be feeling the exact same way you are. You can help and support each other. Do not be silent about your needs; ask for help, and then listen to others as they communicate their needs to you.

One of the most important things you can do during any stressful change is to continue or start taking time for yourself. Remember that it is important do something that makes you happy; plus, whatever you are doing has the added benefit of distracting you from whatever is stressing you. Take mental health days if you are feeling mentally or physically unwell. Go for a walk outside and give yourself a needed break from technology. Sometimes, taking five minutes to take in the beauty of nature can really uplift your mood. Speaking of nature, buy yourself another house plant. Who says 10 house plants is too many house plants? Call your local shelter and adopt a furry familiar (best decision I ever made). Bake three dozen cookies or a new pie each week; people love sweets and will gladly eat them with you. Continue with your exercise routine. Take up a new hobby. Just DO something that brings you joy and happiness. You cannot be a productive, happy, and healthy worker if you do not take care of yourself.

Finally, do not forget the reason why you became a librarian or decided to work in your specific field to begin with. Remembering your ‘why’ can help you navigate so many changes because you are reminded of your goals and what is ultimately important to you at the end of the day. Did you become a librarian to help people? Find a new way to hold reference meetings or get materials to patrons. Did you become a librarian because you love working and teaching with primary source materials? Think about how you can teach classes online and bring the materials to people in new ways. The ‘how’ you accomplish your goals may change, but your goals do not have to.

Change is a constant in all our lives, but it does not have to be stressful.


Joshua J. Mark, “Heraclitus of Ephesus,” Ancient History Encyclopedia (Ancient History Encyclopedia, December 1, 2020), https://www.ancient.eu/Heraclitus_of_Ephesos/.

MS Elizabeth Scott, “Why Avoidance Coping Creates Additional Stress,” Verywell Mind, September 17, 2020, https://www.verywellmind.com/avoidance-coping-and-stress-4137836.

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