5 steps to make the return to work as stress-free as possible
With the Prime Minister having scrapped all Coronavirus restrictions, will companies expect employees to return to our former working ways?, or will it be a hybrid of work-from-home and being back in the office?.
The prospect of returning to the office may be daunting after a couple of years away, but as we all (mostly successfully) navigated graduating during the pandemic and adapting to fully remote practices, getting back to the office is something we can surely readjust to...
Worries about returning to work however, are backed up by significant research. A 2021 survey found every single respondent felt anxious about the idea of returning to in-person work. 77% put their anxiety down to exposure to Coronavirus, while others worried about the commute and inflexibility that comes with being in the office full-time. Further research found many people find the journey to work more stressful than their job itself and insights such as these should be considered by employers who want to make the transition back to work as easy as possible for their employees.
Let’s look more closely at how to make the return to work a little less stressful.
Tips for returning to the office
The return to work should be managed appropriately and effectively. Some workplaces may look to do it in stages, while others may expect employees to get back to it quite quickly.
To ensure your return to work is as smooth as possible, keep these tips in mind:
1) Understand your company’s approach
Fear of the unknown is a real problem and you may find a lot of your work-related anxiety is based on not knowing what will happen. This is more than understandable after the sudden impact of Coronavirus and how it turned our lives upside down. Once you know when you’ll be back in the office, it’s time to look more closely at your company’s return to work policy. The HR team should be able to give you all the information you need to be prepared.
2) Explore new ways of working
Many employers accept they cannot get their employees back to work exactly as before. Companies are beginning to acknowledge that working from home is now part of their working model and benefits their organisation and their employees. A hybrid working model, which involves some days in the office and some at home, is seen by most of us as the ideal solution. Many large organisations such as Canon, Panasonic, Microsoft, Apple, Spotify and many more are adjusting their working conditions following the pandemic.
If your company has asked you to go back into the office full time but you have proved that you can be productive at home – you should address your concerns and be upfront with your managers - remember you may not be the only one feeling this way.
A PwC survey found 44% of employees want to work remotely three days a week or more post-pandemic, and while not all employers can offer this, it is worth speaking to them about their flexibility. As a result of their survey, PwC now offer an ‘empowered day’, which gives their employees more freedom to decide the most effective working pattern such as flexible start and finish times. They have also reduced working hours on Friday's during July and August; allowing employees to enjoy more personal time during the summer holidays.
If you are expected to go back to the office more than you would like, there are ways to make this work better for you. If you miss the quiet time of being at home, then book yourself a meeting once a day to provide the thinking time you were afforded at home. As a result, the pressures of returning to work can be reduced and this is a good strategy to ease back into a pre covid lifestyle. Additionally, try to get out of the office to a local coffee shop and log on for an hour, or simply making sure you get out for a short walk every now and then to give you the quiet, thinking time you may have had during the pandemic.
3) Manage expectations
If you still need to manage childcare or home-schooling or you now have other obligations, make sure your employer knows. If your employer offers a hybrid approach, you may find you can continue successfully in your role with sometime in the office and some time at home. It is important to communicate and be transparent with your employer so they can make any necessary adjustments. Similarly, if you have concerns or anxiety about the readjustment, this is a perfectly fair point to make too.
4) Practice makes perfect
Whatever part of returning to the office worries you most, take time to plan it out and prepare if you need to. If that means setting an extra early alarm to get up and practice your commute in advance, then do it. Alternatively, once the plans for your office return are in place, it is the perfect time to reconnect with colleagues and re-ignite the social side of work. Schedule in a couple of lunch or coffee dates or even a teams call before going back to the office. It’s a great way of easing you back into former familiarity and making the return feel much less daunting.
5) Protect yours and your employees mental health
Depression rates in the UK have doubled since the Coronavirus pandemic began. This has sparked fears for a mental health crisis in the UK. While this is worrying and you may feel the pressure to return to work, if you have any concerns about your mental health, it is important to prioritise it accordingly. Many employers have dedicated mental health first aiders and the impact of Coronavirus has led to a wider understanding and acceptance of mental health issues, ensuring people feel able to discuss their concerns directly to their employers.
From an employer’s perspective, it is vital to consider your employees’ health and work-life balance concerns. All indications suggest that the world of work won’t spring back to how it used to be. Flexibility is the new future, and the best way forward is to embrace it. Listening to your employees’ concerns can help shape your return-to-work policy and together you can create a new working environment which means both business and individual needs are met.
Going back to work will feel like a huge change when you’re used to being at home all day. Trying to adjust your mindset and look for the positives in this situation will enable you to focus on the positives of being back with your old friends and colleagues. Maybe look forward to having lunch with a colleague you’ve missed or you simply can’t wait to be sat comfortably in your ergonomic office chair - these small things can help get you through the day.
Approach your return to the office positively and remember your employer should be there to support you with any concerns along the way. The last two years have transformed the way we work around the world and you may find the office environment is an inviting place after so many months of working alone.
If you’d like further information or support regarding your returning back to the office, one of our experienced consultants would be happy to speak to you. So, give us a call on +44(0)118 988 1150 or drop me an email on firstname.lastname@example.org.