Preparing for return to a revised workplace
Some people have, during the pandemic, worked from home whilst others have had to continue to 'go in', whatever that might mean. You might have the usual workplace or a temporary new site, or a completely new place if you changed jobs or employer.
Coming up to July 2020, many more people are considering returning to work, following the return by some in mid-June. How is that going? Good, we hope.
For those just returned to whatever site you used to work at, what might be going on and how are you managing it?
For those due to return in July-September, think on these aspects and how you can manage rather than cope with this change again.
Prepare yourself practically
- Commute plans (quieter roads, new roadworks, petrol & servicing, remembering how to drive!)
- Travel plans and stay overs if that was part of the job will be restricted and could impact you personal life too, if quarantine stays in place.
- Your outfits for all temperatures, moving around more etc, reopening offices and temperatures.
- Family care responsibilities if your home-life has changed since 'before lockdown'.
- Walking around the building or city, shopping for lunches and fitting it in to your weekly routines.
Remember, it won't be just like it was before, different colleagues on site with you if social distancing measures have to be observed or not close enough to chit chat with friends as you once did, at least for now. There is a lot of adaptation going to be required by everyone, in every situation.
- Don’t expect too much of yourself in the first week or two. Have some idea of what you should expect from yourself in these changed circumstances and the impact of time away for so long; similarly with your manager/colleagues the first week back, they will have to adjust too.
- If some have no need to adjust, ask that they consider your needs because you do. It's impacted us all very differently, with unseen developments at home as well as work during all this.
- Check on what will be expected of you that first week or two, as your organisation should help you settle back into whatever 'new normal' might be for now.
- Try to plan only a week or so ahead, even day to day rather than look too far ahead. If it comes to mind, let it pass and manage it when the need actually arises rather than worry about something probably no-one can yet know or plan fully for!
Emotional fall out
It may be harder to manage anxiety about changes and managing them now, soon and later - especially depending on the outcome for your organisation and team, your business or income stream.
- Anxiety is something likely to happen because this is still a 'new' situation in returning to a previously familiar setting; it may well have changed somehow with social distancing rules, it may be a different set up or new premises even. Some companies may have been planning a move prior to lockdown for example, or things have changed because of it, and smaller businesses especially might have changed location.
- You may be anxious about leaving your home if you were 'stuck in' for a long period. Going outside naturally makes you anxious especially if things may have changed out there; crowds instead of peace and quiet, introverts coping in noisy, busy places again, meeting people you haven't seen in a while - perhaps some that you had problems with and escaped during this period.
- People change over time and when that is time you haven't spent together, it can seem very sudden and different. Give each other time to adapt and step back to observe and adjust a while. It's ok to do that.
- It may be that you become anxious worrying about your children still at home whilst you 'go back to normal' - their care, their own anxieties need your support, the needs of parents or partners who are not yet 'returning' or who have and been relying on you to care for those still home.
- If you've never had one before, it can be scary to experience. However, remember that these are simply caused by the normal and natural 'fear' reaction - the fight or flight response to any threat, real or imagined. If you don’t manage it, the reaction increases - shortness of breath, tight chest, dizziness or feeling faint, sick or nauseous, paralysed with fear, unable to think straight.
- Take some action - walk, move, change your position or body state so that your mind believes you are fighting or walking away, escaping the threat! It can be simple - try and move! Then breathe, and begin relaxation breathing, meditations, mindfulness etc.
- Stress may return if it was work-related, or your previous 'norm' was lots of pressure: work-life balance, money for travel or things left hanging due to the sudden lockdown in March. The new stressor after the security of home or the stress of escaping a restrictive situation at home with schooling, care or relationship pressures.
- Stress is caused possibly by instead of just going locally, you have a long, public commute ahead now that is more confusing or difficult than it was 'before'. Public transport safety concerns, awareness of the new etiquette expected or strangers you haven't seen before, instead of your regular familiar commuters from 'before'.
- Whatever might have been happening prior to lockdown is now going to raise its ugly head again; business changes, moves, job threats, planning a move yourself and so many similar things that could be happening for some.
- Being forced to stay home may have been good for those with depression as that is what it often requires - fear or anxiety about leaving your home, being like everyone else for a change (or so you think).
- Your 'real life' problems return to you and set you back to where you were, just when you are feeling more confident and relaxed you are being forced into yet another new situation!
Anger and frustration
- Again, a normal response to a new situation and uncertainty. Or to the unknown that your company and colleagues did not (could not) help you to manage by offering knowledge and plans for the future. Many people struggled with this unknown and lack of planning options going forward.
Simply take action now. Look at your potential options and new opportunities. This is a different way to manage work and home this time around.