For the best part of the last 12 months many of us have been working from home. Prior to the pandemic we worked in busy office spaces, commuting to our places of work and living alongside our fellow colleagues, workers and a lot of distractions. We were used to the bustle of other people, working while others chatted on calls or discussed their personal lives. We loathed the commute but we were aware of the busy times, which roads to avoid and when. Enter 2020 and the start of lockdown life. Here we were exposed to very different environments, gone were the tiresome commutes and busy offices. Instructed to work from home, many of us found ourselves sat at our dining tables in silence wondering what happened. After a while this became the norm and for some, the luxury of your own bathroom and kitchen felt much better. Whilst some people found it challenging (everyone’s circumstances were very different – same storm different boats!) we got used to it and I for one am now very well-rehearsed using Teams, and have actually gotten quite used to seeing my own face anytime I speak to anyone (some days it’s a blessing, others it’s a curse).
Now that the vaccine programme is well underway and lockdown is easing in the UK, many of us are receiving the call from our employers to return to the office. After over a year of isolating and avoiding people, of working at home and building your new routines it’s only normal that with the call to return comes a feeling of anxiety, especially if (like me) you have preferred working from home. Although we all knew this day would come, it can still feel daunting after so long.
I too have recently been informed I need to return to the office. After a couple of days feeling quite anxious about it, I thought I would do a bit of research and put together a post for anyone else who might be feeling the same. I always think it’s nice to name a feeling so we can acknowledge its presence and work with it. These anxious feelings that stem from returning to work I will be christening, Office Return Anxiety (ORA). So here are 5 useful tips to help you and your ORA to feel a little more settled.
Knowledge is Power
A lot of anxiety if you are returning post COVID can be due to the fear of the unknown, what will the office be like, is there going to be adequate measures in place to protect people? Your employer will most likely have made or be making a lot of changes in line with the regulations where you live so ask the questions you need answers to and you will probably find this helps you to feel happier about the situation. A lot of employers will have to carry out risk assessments as part of the return to work and you are within your right to ask how things will be when you return.
Creating routines can help you feel more in control and help to offset feelings of anxiety. The majority of anxious feelings are born from fear of the unknown so creating some routines you feel safe and happy with can actually maintain some balance – remember you can always change it up if you feel it isn’t working or things become a little samey.
Have a quiet word
Having a quiet word with yourself can sometimes be the difference between feeling anxious and not. If you speak kindly to yourself and try not to focus your attention on too many negative thoughts you can start to reduce how anxious you feel. Returning to the office a few days a week is better than returning every day, a positive. You and your colleagues will require a period of readjustment and that will come with time.
If you can’t find a solution it probably just means you need to accept it. I have personally thought through the logistics of all the options to avoid or prolong the inevitable return. Anything really from faking my own death, acting like I never received the email to full on leaving (thank me later I did the work for you), it’s fair to say there is no clear way out of this. If you have found a way then you need to share it in the comments, we are a community here and teamwork makes the dream work!
OK so the office wasn’t your first option for a working environment, but I find a lot of the time things feel worse when they are forced upon us. It’s quite easy and I know because I do it, to play the victim, but what if we switched it up and owned the situation. I am terrible for playing woe is me, but in truth is it really so bad? If you accept the situation for what it is and own it with a positive mind-set you might just feel your energy shift.
The best thing I can tell you is that you are 100% not alone. There are so many people who have recently been asked to start to return to work and they are feeling exactly the same. ORA can also affect you if you have been on maternity leave or have been off work unwell and are returning. It isn’t uncommon to feel overwhelmed by such a big change to your routine. Just like anything new, it will take time to get used to and that is ok. If you are feeling it or have any good advice get involved in the comments section and let’s support each other.