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Photograph: Time Out/Shutterstock
Photograph: Time Out/Shutterstock

An expert reveals how to process back-to-work nerves

What to do when you’ve got to go back to the office but don’t feel great about it

Kate Lloyd

Over the past few weeks, experts have been finding solutions to lockdown problems. In this final instalment: dealing with back-to-work nerves. 

Gary from Highgate says:

‘I’m going back into the office soon and feel very nervous about it. What can I do to feel better?’

Wellbeing coach and sabbatical specialist Lyndall Farley says:

‘We’ve all been through one giant work-life experiment over the last few months. It feels like we have only just adjusted to the changes and now it’s changing again. I’ve seen lots of people stressed about the return to work and the office. Will you just get stuck in the rut of your old work life? Can you stay healthy and happy working at the office? Can you ask your boss for more flexible working arrangements? The truth is, there’s no “going back”. Everything is new and everyone is adjusting – including your boss. Now is the time to think about what works for you and how you want to live.’

Understand what’s causing the anxiety
‘Ask yourself: are you feeling nervous about your health, the commute, the workload or returning to your busy life? Getting to the bottom of the real drivers of anxiety will help you design the right coping mechanism. It could be commuting off-peak or having remote days. Think about what you really need and don’t be afraid to ask for it.’

Reflect on what you learned while away
‘What do you want to keep from your lockdown life and what do you want to go back to? Avoid the temptation to go straight back to the old way. Design a new hybrid life taking the best of the old and new ways of working. Design what works for you and discuss options with your boss.’

Make a return-to-work plan
‘Make your return to work as smooth as possible by making a plan for the first few weeks back. Find out what’s changed with the business or your role, talk with your boss about their priorities, discuss any changes in the way you want to work, set boundaries for your own wellbeing, connect with co-workers and ask about their experiences. Include in your plan the things that are likely to cause you stress and how you’ll proactively manage those things.’

Make your wellbeing a priority
‘Keep a close eye on your physical, emotional and mental wellbeing and give yourself time to recharge from work stress. Apply the recharge model to get the most recharge value out of your non-work time.’

Get support
‘Build a support network of friends and family to keep you focused on your wellbeing or consider getting a coach to support you through the transition.’

You can find more advice from Farley on returning to work here

Read the whole Isolation SOS series.  

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