With restrictions easing across the globe, many of us are mentally preparing ourselves for the return to work in ‘real’ life. After a year spent surrounded by the same four walls, most of us are understandably keen to get back to the workplace and bring back ‘normality.’
If you’ve popped into town lately, you’ll have noticed the queues going round the block; friends waiting to get their hands on a pint or visit their favorite store. It’s clear that many people can’t wait to break out of their bubble and get back up and at ‘em. They are desperate to get back to
pre-corona life, and they’ve gained a whole new appreciation of the everyday things we took for granted (and rightly so). This includes socialising after work, talking to co-workers in person, and even missing that frustrating daily commute; largely because it represented the space between home-life and work-life.
However, these are, as you may have heard once or twice before, ‘unusual times’, and it’s not all that black and white. Eager as we may be to head back to the office, some of us may be feeling unexpectedly anxious about resuming their 9-5. The thought of leaving your bubble may be unexpectedly daunting. Perhaps you’ve enjoyed slowing down, taking a break from the social treadmill? Perhaps you’ve found yourself to be more productive at home? Or perhaps you simply cannot be bothered. If so, it’s probably time to disrupt some of those unnatural patterns and routines we’ve developed.
Psychiatrist Dr Renju Joseph notes, ‘as humans, we can find change difficult, so you won’t be alone in dealing with anxiety when going back to work following on from lockdown.’ It’s easy to get used to being comfortable at home when we’ve got used to being there 24/7. If there is one thing the pandemic has taught us, it’s how crucially important it is to take time to check in on our well-being. No matter how we feel about getting back to work, we are all in it together, as we have been since the beginning.
Whether that’s exercising more, being kinder to ourselves, or reaching out to friends or loved ones, we’ve had to take extra care of our mental health over lockdown. This has been carried through to the workplace, where employers are paying close attention to their employees’ mental state. Most employers are offering, where possible, the option of a phased return, or a combination of remote and in-office working if it better suits the individual. They are sharing the details of the company’s go-to mental health champion prior to their team’s return, and they’re making communication between staff members a priority.
We’ve faced zoom crashes, uncertain rules, too much time with the people we live with (including ourselves), plus a worldwide pandemic, so it’s no surprise that we’re craving a return to ‘normality’. But what if we don’t go back to life before lockdown? What if we return to a new, improved work-life. One that embraces flexibility, prioritises employee mental health, and encourages support and communication.