Many of us have had a year away from our usual workplaces and have by now become accustomed to our home-based routines. With restrictions gradually lifting, thoughts are now turning towards a return to the office. If you are feeling anxious about this upcoming change, you are not alone. In fact, 65% of employees have said that they are experiencing similar feelings of anxiety.
The good news is that there are a few things you can do to prepare yourself for the upcoming change and help yourself get used to this new (yet also familiar) way of working. Here’s what these are.
1. Begin to change your routine
Your once well-organised daily schedule has probably become a bit haphazard during lockdown. But it is important to start getting back into your old work routine. Gradually start setting your alarm earlier, aiming towards the time you used to wake up, and go to bed earlier too. Easing yourself back into a routine now will make the transition that much smoother when you do go back to the office. Moreover, a good daily routine can help you to feel in control which can lower your stress levels.
Whether you’ve kept in regular contact with your manager or not, you should book in a meeting with them before your return. Ask about the return-to-work policy and the safety measures that are in place within the workplace. Be open and honest by telling them how you feel. They should be able to help put your mind at ease and may be able to offer an initial (or even permanent) flexible working schedule, giving you time to find your feet.
Perhaps you have fond memories of coffee breaks with your colleagues, or there was a lunch spot near the office you really loved. Remind yourself of the positive aspects of working in the office and, upon your return, try to incorporate those things back into your working day if you can. Having a positive attitude won’t just make you feel more comfortable, it can have a similar effect on those around you too!
4. Take your time
Just as you would if it were your first day in a new job, take time to get used to the new status quo. Office rules may have changed drastically and may do so again in the future, so flexibility is key. Keep checking in with how you’re feeling and take it easy: don’t force yourself to give 100% immediately.
5. Look after yourself
Coping with change can be stressful, but thankfully there are many methods you can adopt to naturally alleviate your anxiety. You could practise deep-breathing or meditation or, if that seems too unfamiliar, try walking, running or doing yoga. Try changing your diet too. There are nutrients in certain foods that can reduce symptoms of anxiety, for example omega-3 in fish and nuts. A healthy body often means a healthy mind.
If your anxiety becomes too much to manage, speak to your manager about it and consider seeking help from an expert.
Going back to the workplace is certainly going to be a strange experience for most of us and it is understandable if you are apprehensive. However, remember that you’re not going through it alone; your colleagues are in the same boat, so talk to them. Keeping the lines of communication open and offering mutual support will make the process that much easier to navigate.