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Getting back into the swing of things at work

Getting back into the swing of things at work

While the furlough scheme is due to end on 30th September, many people who were supported by the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme are already returning to work. Those of us who’ve been working remotely during the pandemic have also begun going back into the office. The prospect of ‘getting back’ is likely to prompt a lot of different thoughts and feelings.

Some people will have been itching to return to ‘normal’ working patterns, perhaps because they missed the routine or the structure and buzz of office life.

Those who’ve been away for a while may find they’re lacking motivation or a sense of purpose. Some will have reassessed their priorities during the last 18 months, and might have decided they want a change in working hours or role – or even a completely new career.

Others will understandably be feeling nervous or fearful. This might be because they’ve lost confidence around things like speaking to colleagues or contributing to meetings, and find the idea of plunging back into the deep end daunting. People who’ve been on furlough for a long time might be concerned that they’ve lost their ‘edge’ or fallen behind in their skills or career – especially if some of their peers have continued to work.

There may also be anxiety around risk, with employees worried about catching the virus during their commute or by mixing with colleagues. It could be workplace changes that cause concern, for example the new Covid-safe measures and policies that have been put in place. Some of us might simply be dreading the idea of facing the old workplace stresses and pressures once again.

It’s important to remember that everyone who’s been furloughed or working remotely during the pandemic will have had a different experience. We know that having a routine and purpose are good for our mental wellbeing, so if you’ve not worked for a few months this may have had an impact on how you feel. You may also have found that having more time to dwell on or worry about things has affected your mental health.

If any of this sounds familiar, here are some tips for getting into the right mindset and building back your confidence.

Get ready to return to routine. If you’ve been sleeping in later than you normally would on a work day, for example, start getting into the habit of setting the alarm for the time you’ll need to get up for when you return.

Rehearse the bits that make you nervous! If you’re feeling anxious about the commute, for instance, try doing that for a couple of days before you start back for good.

Acknowledge that things will be different. The workplace might feel a bit strange, and it’s possible that dynamics and relationships between colleagues will have changed. Again, you could ease back into this by arranging a coffee with a colleague or two before you return. If someone on your team or in your department has been working while you’ve been away you could ask them to describe what things are like right now.

The way the work environment is set up is likely to be different, too, with new entrances and exits, spacing of workstations and staggering of breaks for example. Finding out about the new policies and rules in advance will help you to prepare yourself mentally.

Expect some uncertainty. There are bound to be adjustments to make once you’re back, however well you prepare yourself. We’ve all experienced a lot of uncertainty over the last year and a half, so think back to how you’ve coped with this. Whatever worked for you, keep on doing it!

Talk about how you’re feeling. Communication will be really important, particularly within teams who’ve come back together after so long. Describing how you’re finding the return to work, and the challenges you face, will probably help others as well as yourself.

Returning to work or to the office after a long time away could be a real shock to the system. If you’re feeling particularly stressed about it, our blogs about managing stress at work might be a help. CBT is a highly effective treatment for stress and anxiety – find out more about how it works here.

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