Returning to your workplace
After months of being told to stay home and physically distance ourselves from others it can be difficult to suddenly go back to your workplace, even if many of the current health crisis restrictions have been lifted, and it is now okay to return.
For many people, especially those with an existing mental health issue, returning to your workplace can bring up a range of feelings including fear and anxiety. These feelings can occur for many reasons including being surrounded by others after extended periods of time alone, having to commute in peak times, and spending less time at home with the family, even if you were doing this prior to COVID-19.
The Thrive at Work wellbeing initiative acknowledge that people may be worried about returning to their place of work. Thrive at Work recommend there are four things to consider when preparing to return to the workplace. They have termed these the Four F’s – fear, fantasies, flexibility and fun.
These are briefly described below.
Fear and other feelings
It is natural to be fearful of the unknown, especially during a pandemic.
Fears around returning to your workplace can include; shared spaces, being exposed to the virus from others and anxiety surrounding the security of your job. It is important to recognise these fears and chat to your boss about any concerns you may have. They are there to help make the transition back to work as easy as possible.
Fantasies about returning to work
Some people might feel excited about returning to their workplace. While remaining optimistic it may be helpful to acknowledge that returning to your workplace and settling back into a “new normal” may be difficult.
Don’t be scared to ask for support and talk to your boss or manager about how you are feeling. This is a unique experience for many people and it may take some time to adjust.
Flexibility and preserving what we’ve learnt
Most of us have learnt a lot about being flexible during the pandemic. Things have changed, and we have had to be flexible in the way that we work. Even if you did not enjoy working from home there are things we have learnt that can be applied to make better use of our time in the office.
Given the feelings of fear and anxiety surrounding returning to work, why not try and arrange something fun for when you are back in the office. This could be anything including simply having a coffee and chat with colleagues every morning.
To read the full version of the Four F’s of returning to the workplace or watch the video, head to the Thrive at Work website.
Public Transport and Flexible Working Arrangements:
If you have an Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) team at your workplace check in with them about what changes have been put in place regarding safety when returning to the workplace. One of these changes may involve flexible or amended working hours to reduce the amount of people in the office at one time and to cater for crowding on public transport during peak times.
If you rely on public transport to get to and from work, ensure you use the Transperth website to check for any updates or route changes that may be in place.
If there is a route at a different time that better suits you and allows you to physically distance during this time, chat to your manager about slightly altering your working hours to achieve this.
If you are experiencing stress or anxiety around crowded public transport or have any other concerns that may be negatively impacting your mental health and wellbeing, speak to your manager or Human Resources (HR) staff about alternative transport methods and additional support that may be available to you through your employer during this time.
For professional support during COVID-19 see here.
It is important to remember that everyone is different. You are not alone and not everyone will feel the same way about returning to the workplace. Therefore, it is important to speak to your manager regarding what will work best for you and your situation when returning to your workplace.
For more information regarding returning to work, check out this factsheet titled “Why leaving lockdown is a big deal” and article “Business as Unusual” in the “FLOURISH” health and wellbeing magazine.