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Managing the social anxieties of returning to the office

Posted on 1st June 2021

Returning to the office after working remotely for so long is a daunting thought for many. In order to overcome this anxiety and the ‘awkwardness’ of returning, we’ve set out a few tips to help you and your team cope with the return, new ‘firsts’ and the feeling of re-entry.

With the easing of lockdown, we have so much to look forward to, however we cannot forget that there is a lot that may cause us to be anxious. So we’ve come up with a few tips on overcoming work anxiety to help you ease back into the office:

  • Enquire about the support that is available to you thorough your organisation, go through their policies and procedures – make sure you know exactly what health and safety options they have put into place in order to make going back into work an easy transition. If there isn't a policy, there should be one, so ask HR or your Office Manager. 
  • Get back into a healthy routine – the pandemic has allowed some of us to fall into a more relaxed and possibly unhealthy routine, by creating a better routine it helps us to stay on track.
  • Positivity is key! Try to focus on the positives of going back into work (like seeing your work bestie!) Optimism and gratitude is just as contagious as anxiety and fear.
  • Be kind to yourself! It will take some time to get used to things again, so take the extra time if you need to and don’t rush yourself – this will only cause extra pressure.
  • Pay attention to how you are feeling and try to understand what may be causing you to feel that way.
  • Remember it is normal to experience anxiety as we ease out of lockdown and its okay not be okay. Make sure you speak to someone if you are feeling uneasy, whether that be a colleague, a friend, your Mental Health First Aider, or someone in HR. It always helps to speak out.
  • Make sure to recognise when your emotions may be affecting the way you behave or any thoughts you may be experience.
  • Reach out to your colleagues or even HR, it is likely that they are feeling the same stress and anxiety as you by being back in the office. Sharing your concerns will help.
  • Even though we may have been experiencing ‘cabin fever’ during the work from home period, you may find that you feel ‘homesick’ as your home routine has now become your safe haven away from the pandemic.
  • Recognise and accept that what was once familiar may now feel unfamiliar and that is ok!
  • Returning to the office may be unfamiliar in many ways – wearing masks, seating at a 2m distance and no more tea-rounds (this one made us especially sad). Take your time in adjusting to the new norm and understand that this may be tiring as we learn to adjust to the new processes put into place.
  • If you are finding this transition fairly easy why not be the source of positivity for your team, this may help your colleagues in their own journey.
  • Overthinking is a common side effect of anxiety, try to refrain from focusing on the negative.
  • Even though returning to the office is another step into normality we cannot forget to prioritise mental wellbeing.
  • Maintaining a healthy work life balance is important in anyones day to day, going for a wellness walk during lunch time and finishing work on time will ensure you keep a good balance.
  • Creating an appropriate sleep schedule will allow us to feel more in control and also contributes to a healthier routine.
  • Prepare for the morning rush by prepping the night before.
  • Pack your own utensils for eating and drinking in order to avoid touching things that may have been used by someone else.
  • Do not feel afraid to speak up should you feel your colleagues are not respecting your boundaries or the safety guidelines that have been put in place. Plan how you will address this in order avoid a defensive reaction from others.
  • Should your company opt for the flexible working/hybrid role approach find out what your set days in the office will be in order to plan out your weeks more efficiently. 
  • Commuting can be very stressful especially as the train carriages start to fill up, if this is something of major concern find out if how your company feels about altering working hours in order to avoid the morning rush.
  • Remember to take it slow, ease yourself into the new norm!

We hope these tips help, for any further support on getting back into the office or for some advice on how to reassure your team, get in touch with us here, we’d love to help!

You can also watch our webinar on this topic here.