Back to the office soon? How are you feeling about it? With many of us heading back to the physical workplace, it’s natural to feel anxious after such a long time away. But, as Laura Drury points out, it’s not only how you’re feeling about your return to work, but how honest you’re willing to be about it too.
The return to work
Finally, the pubs and hairdressers are open again - meaning we no longer resemble Cousin It while having ‘Zoom drinks’ with friends.
And while this step towards normality is a welcome relief for landlords, hairdressers and shop owners alike, it’s reasonable to assume there was slight apprehension on their part. After all, it’s been a year of staying home and avoiding people.
Swarming in their hundreds, customers formed lengthy, (almost) socially distanced queues for a pint, glass of vino or a ‘new do’. It must have been somewhat daunting for business owners.
But what about those of us returning to the office or other workspaces?
Our homes have become our sanctuaries
Recently, whilst chatting with friends, discussions arose about physically leaving the house and returning to work. We’re four very sociable creatures who, in the past, would have thought nothing about hopping on a bus, train or plane to be with each other and experience new things.
Why would we? And yet we all admitted some reticence about returning to what we’ve historically done for the best part of our lives… and doing it soon.
Like you, I’m not relishing the thought of getting back on public transport. I’ve also become rather fond of my house. Yes, whilst at times it’s felt like a prison, it's also become a sanctuary.
Humans can become attached to our homes without a pandemic, so it’s no surprise if it happens when we’ve been actively encouraged to stay in them. Especially when avoiding a very real danger.
Whilst that danger is currently better managed, it has by no means been eradicated. Yet we’re being encouraged to return to the workplace. Understandably, this can lead to anxiety.
Return to work anxiety
It’s not easy to admit when you’re feeling scared. Given the expectation for us to try and return to some sort of pre-pandemic normality, it’s likely that people won’t speak up about their fears, for fear of what others may think. Here at Laughology, we strongly encourage you not to fall into that trap.
It’s a small comfort to know that most of us will feel apprehensive on one level or another. But we’re all in this together and the best way to address our anxieties is through communication. Open up, not only to family and friends, but also to colleagues and managers.
As companies reach out to their employees to consider the best strategies for flexible working, play your part. If you want support from them, you need to be honest.
Not only will talking make it easier to manage, you’ll also discover other people with like-minded concerns. Your company will gain information that’ll help create a successful return plan for all. (In order for people to open up there needs to be a feeling of psychological safety.)
Remind yourself that your imagination is powerful and any scenario you’re conjuring up is likely to be far worse than the reality. There’s a good reason the word ‘fear’ fits nicely into the acronym ‘false expectations appearing real’.
Communication is the answer
Everyone’s experience of the past year will be different. Thoughts and feelings about returning to the workspace will be unique too. To return in the most positive way, we need to open up communications. To do this, we need to ask, but we also need to listen. Really listen. With empathy and without judgement.
One good thing to come out of this pandemic is the awareness that we’re all human. We all have challenges. We’re not infallible. Whilst Zoom meetings aren’t as desirable as face to face ones, the awareness of our ‘humanness’ has made connecting with each other virtually, much easier.
It’s our humanness that we need to hold onto when we make that first journey back to our place of work.
During a team meeting, one of my colleagues asked each of us how we were, twice. The first time for the greeting, the second to find out how we really were. Why not use this technique to check in with your teams, peers or your boss? Share your own concerns, but be curious to find out how others are doing and support them in any way you can.
Although we encourage laughter, humour and happiness, we don’t suggest you chase these whilst ignoring feelings of stress/anxiety. That would be detrimental to your mental health.
Laughter and humour can help us alleviate symptoms. Happiness can only come, however, if you admit you’re stuck and seek help from those around you.
So, honestly, how are you feeling about going back to the office?