As things in Australia begin to more towards normality and COVID-19 restrictions start to ease, many workers are finding themselves back in the office. By now, many of us have been working from home for months – digital meetings and virtual happy hours have become the new norm. Some workers enjoy the liberation from commutes and improved work-life balance. Others have been struggling with the lack of connection and socialisation with their co-workers. Wherever you sit on the spectrum of adjusting to working from home, it is understandable that transitioning back into the office environment will present some challenges.
There could be a variety of reasons that you feel uneasy about returning to work. 70% of over 1000 workers surveyed by PwC said several factors were preventing them from wanting to return to work, with 51% citing fear of getting sick as their primary worry.
These feelings of fear and anxiety are not surprising, given how our brains make sense of unexpected change. The following tips may help you manage your mental health as you transition back into the workplace:
- Voice your concerns. Be honest with your manager so you can work through any issues together. See if flexible working arrangements are an option, even one or two days working from home may offset some anxiety you are experiencing.
- Continue to practice self-care. The addition of commuting to the office may take time out of your day. Make sure to prioritise your mental and physical health through regular exercise, eating well and keeping connected with friends and family.
- Reconnect with your colleagues. Although working from home has perks such as no commuting and additional spare time, we have also lost a lot. Take the time to have conversations with your colleagues and enjoy the little things like coffee runs.
- Be patient with yourself. As we begin to transition back into the workplace, there is an expectation of returning to the familiar. However, the post-COVID-19 workplace will be very different from the one we left in March. New factors include new one-way systems and maintaining social distance from other employees, so be patient with yourself as you adjust to your new physical workplace situation.
Returning to the office after COVID-19 has the potential to be a stressful time for some employees. Implementing the above strategies will help monitor anxiety and manage your expectations around returning to the office.