Many Australian workers ditched their city workplaces in favour of working from home throughout the COVID-19 crisis.
But with restrictions across many states now easing, the time has come for employees to contemplate life beyond lockdown and consider heading back to the office.
Understandably, those transitioning from a remote working arrangement to a return to pre-pandemic offices may be feeling on edge about their return to their physical workspace.
As such they may be experiencing anxiety around using public transport again, fears about sharing equipment and concerns about their ability to adapt to alternative routines.
Mental health and wellbeing support organisation Beyond Blue says the best thing you can do if you are feeling uncomfortable about returning to work is to voice your concerns. This is an unprecedented situation for everyone and by being honest with your employer, you can work through any issues together.
Self-care should be one of your top priorities.
Beyond Blue says whether it be exercise, eating well, meditation or simply connecting with loved ones, the best thing you can do to cope with the change is look after yourself by continuing to prioritise activities that keep you centred and happy.
With more spare time on our hands, many of us picked up new hobbies or reignited old passions such as painting, reading, cooking or meditating. It’s still important to prioritise self-care, so continue the things that put you in a good headspace, the group says.
“Even if you’re likely to be shorter on time, don’t abandon these behaviours. Even if it’s something as simple as still taking the morning walk around the block that is now part of your routine. There are practical tools available too. HeadGear is a free app that lets you complete activity-based challenges to build mental fitness.”
Beyond Blue also recommends that those who may be struggling with the thought of a return to the office consider limiting their information intake.
It says that as the pandemic raged, many of us have become accustomed to regular media updates alerting us to everything from current cases and hot spots to the impact of COVID on our pets.
Unfortunately this also means there is a lot of information shared via some platforms which is untrue, exaggerated or alarmist.
Try to make sure you’re getting your information from reliable sources – not social media or rumour – and remember that official advice from regulators and government is designed to enable safe ways of working, Beyond Blue says.
“When it comes to your own workplace, you will likely have plenty of questions. It may be frustrating but try to embrace the information provided by your employer, rather than trying to guess or predict what will happen down the track.
“This will help you avoid unnecessary stress about things you can’t control.”
Where possible, it’s also worth trying to celebrate the opportunity to reconnect, an opportunity you may not have had when working from home.
While there have been a few perks associated with working from home – including a lack of commute resulting in additional spare time – but we’ve also had to compromise in other areas such as brainstorming sessions, morning coffee runs with colleagues and staff drinks.
Many of us have missed the opportunity to be able to talk to a co-worker to ask a quick question or have a chat.
So, when the time does come to return to the office or the worksite, enjoy the little things that have been absent during the time you worked from home.
Lastly, it’s important to remember that while many businesses are reopening their doors, it doesn’t mean that working from home is off the table completely, Beyond Blue says.
“If your employer is still allowing remote working in some form, see if you can arrange a split between time spent in the physical workspace, and days at home. Even if it’s just one or two days, it may help ease the transition and offset some of the anxiety you’re experiencing.”