Are you anxious about returning to work after lockdown? If you are feeling anxious and stressed about returning to work, know that you are not alone. With lockdown restrictions continuing to ease once more and Covid vaccines becoming increasingly available, the focus has shifted again to thoughts around returning to the workplace. Although a return to routine and normality is a welcome prospect for some, others are dreading the idea of going back to long daily commutes, expensive lunches, and social engagement within the office environment.
The beginning of the pandemic saw millions of workers adapt to working from home, and while it created its own set of challenges (chiefly the risks of burnout and the blurring of lines between working and personal life) it also opened up a whole new alternative to the regular 9-5. Now as the dust settles, the transition from home to work will be just as difficult.
Employers and employees alike are grappling with the need to create clear expectations about what work will look like as we begin to put the pandemic behind us. One of the biggest obstacles we are all facing right now is the fact that no one really has a definite answer.
Questions around when employees are expected to make a return to their workplace differ for each industry. Employer expectations will vary from company to company as well as questions on whether certain staff can continue remote working. New employees who were hired during the pandemic may struggle with finding their footing amongst colleagues whom they have only met in meetings via Zoom.
It is essential that staff feel safe and comfortable to return to their workplace with the correct procedures in place.
One step at a time
There is plenty that employers can do to address these concerns and ensure that staff feel safe upon their return. It is crucial that employers put in place clear guidelines on social distancing and hygiene in the workplace – and that staff are made aware of what is expected of them and the measures that are in place to protect them.
Introducing flexible working hours or staggered shifts may also help reduce the number of staff on the premises as well as alleviating some travel worries by allowing staff to avoid travelling during rush hour. Providing the option of flexible work hours will give staff the chance to arrange time in the office to collaborate with team members as well as time at home to focus on other tasks that require their full concentration.
The way we work is likely to keep changing in the coming weeks. Businesses by now should be used to adapting to new procedures and policies at short notice. The mental health and wellbeing of staff should be at the forefront of any plans in the return to regular operations, whether they are coming back for the first time in a year, just starting out, or if they have been in the office throughout.
We have a long road ahead before things return to normal. This could prove to be a valuable opportunity for employers and employees to do things differently and possibly improve on the way things were handled pre-pandemic.
Note: Please continue to follow government guidelines closely. Easing of the lockdown rules will vary by region, so please refer to the following relevant authorities:
If you are someone who is worried about returning to work, it is important to inform your line manager about your concerns as soon as possible. More information for improving your mental health can be found here: https://www.mentalhealthatwork.org.uk/toolkit/transitioning-back-to-work-after-lockdown/
Article written in collaboration with Jessica Capper of RWA Consultancy.