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Overcoming back to work anxiety

lady looking out of bedroom window

If you have been working from home since lockdown began, it is likely that you have not set foot into your office. As lockdown continues to ease and we are settling into a ‘new normal’, you may be feeling anxious about having to return to work. Thoughts around whether it is safe to commute or if there are enough safety precautions in place may play on your mind.

Adapting to any kind of change can be challenging. But when you add anxiety around catching the virus and transmitting it to others, it is hardly surprising that you would be dreading returning to the office. Instead of staying home and keeping safe from the virus, you’re now being told it’s okay to catch public transport and return to your pre-pandemic lives.

These feelings of unease are completely normal and you are not alone in feeling them. There are also some things you can do to help ease return to work anxiety.

Talk to your employer

If you’re feeling anxious about your  return to work, talk to your employer and colleagues and share your thoughts with them. Chances are they are feeling some of the same feelings you are. If the main source of your anxiety is commuting, ask your employer if you can work flexibly so you can travel outside of busy periods or work from home a couple days a week.

Be prepared

Lockdown has meant that a lot of us have had to adapt to new patterns – whether that’s work, sleep or routine. Give yourself time to adapt to returning to work. Start doing things that you would normally do pre-pandemic such as going to bed early and waking up when you normally would when you’ve had to go into the office. Similarly, make sure you’re finishing at your usual time so you’re maintaining a pattern. You may feel obligated to work longer hours to catch up on time lost from the office but overworking can affect your mental health.

Remember to be gentle with yourself on your first few days back because you’re not used to commuting or working in an office.

Be kind to yourself

It’s especially important to be kind to yourself during this transition period. Taking care of your body and mind may help ease your anxieties so make sure you’re eating a healthy, balanced diet, drinking plenty of water and getting a good night’s sleep.

Remember to also take time out for yourself and do things that relax you, such as:

  • Meditating
  • Going for a walk or a run
  • Reading a book
  • Doing something mindful like drawing or writing

Know what support is available for you

Alongside speaking to your employer and expressing any concerns you may have about returning to work, it’s important to be aware of any policies and measures being put in place by the company you work for. It’s also important to be aware of your rights when it comes to working during the pandemic.

Helpful resources

Here are some resources you may find useful to help with managing stress and anxieties associated with returning to work:

Are you experiencing some of the things mentioned here?

If you need extra support or need to speak to someone, you can refer to our Employment Team. They can provide you with practical advice on returning to work, knowing your employment rights and signposting you to other services for more information. You can self-refer to the service on our website.

Author: Stewart Gillespie
Posted on: 3rd September 2020

SMART St Mary Abbots Rehabilitation and Training