Manage your post-Covid return to work
You may well have just returned to work or be preparing to from July.
There are many things to consider in this yet more change to your work and life environments. We have generally done well to adapt and adjust so quickly to a pandemic and lockdown, a worldwide scare and ongoing limitations to civil liberties and freedom.
Yet we have more with the return to your workplace that may, in fact, not seem like the safe, comfortable place it once was, the familiarity at least if not the happiest place for some maybe:
- New colleagues around you as you work with social distancing.
- Missing close friends you could chat with and find support from.
- Your manager may be having to manage multiple teams and new members.
- You are likely to feel anxious wondering if it will work out for you and your role.
- The commute is likely to be different - driving instead of public transport, masks and restricted numbers so delays perhaps.
- Travelling around the country and certainly between countries.
- Work-life balance more than ever for some families.
There will be practical adjustments like your new environment:
- Warming up long-closed offices or factories.
- Spacing work place desks or machinery.
- Walking around the city or town, avoiding people, where it was once crowded.
- Waiting in line for lunch shopping or finding time to prepare yours in advance.
- Staggered school returns impact your work capacity, not to mention worries.
- Anxiety about your income with companies coming off furlough support soon.
Then your mindset will have been affected:
- So long away that could have felt like a long holiday, and enjoyable with nice weather.
- So long away that you struggle to face the crowded office, the noisy workplace, unfamiliar faces on the train to work and changed schedules and masks required.
How to manage this for yourself
1. Don’t ask too much of yourself to get right back into it for the first week or two. Take some pressure off, give yourself head space to adjust, find your feet again and work through the re-forming - storming-norming and performing process all over again!
2. Make sure your company gives you some idea of what you can expect in the changed circumstances in practical terms and productivity too.
3. After so long away anxiety, uncertainty and adjustment will bring its own stress, so your managers need to accept and understand this (and that they too will have the same reactions and needs).
4. For many there may have been changes in your home situation that affect work so raise these early if not as they happened. Child-care for example, and home schooling, nursery restrictions for your child and balancing this with new hours, home working plus in office some days - lots of 'flexi-working' initially but it needs to suit you and meet your personal needs too.
5. Help each other. A quick update, chat about problems and share ideas on managing the transition back to work or your 'new normal' work - at least for now, as it may change again as you move back to real normality once more. Or not at all.
6. Remember too that this may all work out well for you and your circumstances. If not, talk about it and ask for what you need!
7. Discuss issues with family members too, from very young to very old and especially partners who you need to support you, or parents/friends if you are a single parent.
Emotional adjustments are normal
- Anxiety is likely and already reported by some - leaving the comfort of home, more time spent recently with family, being yanked back from this and having to meet strangers again in not-so distant seating plans.
- The safety of loved ones returning and adjusting too.
- Your workplace practices may be changing, even your role and tasks.
- Freedom may be exciting but also daunting for you and yours, and the company.
- Panic attacks are possible, stress returning or new stressors arising. Be patient with yourself and others, be understanding and find helpful insights and discussions as a group perhaps in work and home. Simply act - walk, move, change state in mind and body, breathe slowly and reduce the stress reaction to an unknown threat before trying to relax and meditate.
- Stress at work that hung around before may seem doubled on returning, with everything else as well. Name it, think about how you can manage it and discuss your options openly whilst everyone else is also adjusting.
- Stress outside of work may come again, more so around bills and money, future income security or job changes.
- If depression or anger was already a problem then going back into the fray will be frightening for you so you need to be careful and know what you need and how to be able to manage it, with help and alone. Both are often the result of ongoing stress and feeling unable to make helpful changes to your circumstances but you can!
Remember that you have the personal power over your environment, your situation even if that may seem just a little right now.
Nothing stays the same and things develop and change constantly so 'keep going' through the problems to the better times and solutions!
Believe you have options and opportunities, control and autonomy no matter what your circumstances. You may need help and support and that's fine - people are social beings and we rely on that help and guidance - advice can be requested and heard but you don’t have to heed it, just add to your knowledge and balance with your beliefs and needs.