Feeling anxious about your first time back at the office? We can help.
We’ve been faced with challenges left, right and centre. From job uncertainty, to feeling the economic pinch to dealing with the mental and physical stress of remote work, home schooling and more. It’s all been piling up on a plate that’s already overflowing and – let’s face it – we’re starting to feel a little anxious. How ‘bout you guys? So when you add heading back the office as the cherry on top, and it’s the first time and there are a lot of unknowns, anxiety can begin to peak. But, hope is here, because there are ways to combat this and get back to feeling a little more zen. Take a read.
Some anxiety-reducing advice from an expert
It’s important to remember you’re only human. And you’re doing a good job of keeping it together in trying, taxing, testing times. So when you feel anxiety flaring at the prospect of returning to work there are two things you need to know. Number one, you’re not alone. And number two, there are ways of manging that anxiety effectively. Even if you aren’t feeling anxious about returning to work in particular, these techniques from certified life coach and hypnotist Charlotte Lieberman can help you get through it.
Say ‘hello’ to your anxiety and negative feelings instead of trying to fight or run from them. Breathing techniques will help calm you down and let you address your anxiety in a more measured way, ID where in your body or thoughts it’s coming from and move forward from there. Headspace, the guided meditation app, has a one-minute deep breathing exercise you can play on loop or trial their app for free any time.
Creating a routine for yourself often promotes a feeling of safety and comfort that you can draw on should anxiety hit. Routines can include anything from establishing a morning ritual – both com and Huff Post have some techniques you can replicate – to starting with the bare basics: a glass of water first thing each morning, heading to the gym at the same time every day; these routines matter and help you combat anxiety whether you know it or not.
Keep yourself and your self-care as a number one priority. Lieberman frames this as “supportive discipline” – you make a commitment to do something for yourself that helps reduce your anxiety (this could be the classic yoga and meditation or something more hobby-orientated like gardening) and you don’t compromise. In her book The Joy of Missing Out, author Tanya Dalton goes even further to say that self-care is fundamental to other aspects of life like productivity: “Taking care of yourself isn’t a luxury, and it’s not pampering. It’s essential to higher productivity, creativity and concentration.” Hear hear to that.
Use mental role play to give yourself advice – almost as though a friend were doing it – to help you move from a space of anxiety into one of positivity. Those pre-job interview pep talks actors give themselves in front of the mirror in every rags-to-riches movie hold more significance than you thought. On this same topic, the columnist Oliver Burkeman explores why we maybe don’t give ourselves the same advice we would friends. One theory is that we think our advice is actually “glib nonsense”, but the truer reason (we think) is that we often believe our advice doesn’t hold any bearing on our particular problems or anxieties; our own advice won’t work in this context, at this time, for this relationship. We need to give ourselves more credit and let our own advice help us feel better.
But it’s not all up to you
Although you have a large part to play in managing your own anxieties, how you feel about returning to work (and while you’re there) is also largely tied to what your employer does to ensure your safety and a work environment that helps alleviate any anxieties you may have. According to the International Labour Organization, your employer should have a plan in place – where applicable – for the below workplace action areas. This is just a snapshot but you can find the full list using the link above.
Environment and equipment: Points of exposure, poor air quality, noise and ergonomic conditions
Workload, work-pace and work-schedule: Assessing workload, adjusting work distribution, improving working methods
Job security: Transparency around business performance, retrenchments and restructuring; tapping into government funding and support
Social support: Encouraging employee connection via online channels and identifying channels for employees to express concerns and fears, recognising good work performance
Psychological support: Creating a buddy system to monitor stress and burnout, making stress reduction and self-calming techniques available to employees
We’ve also compiled a list of guidelines your office should follow as outlined by the World Health Organization and Centers for Disease Control on top of how to handle something like a colleague testing positive for COVID. You can read it in more detail here.
When it’s all said and done getting back to the office after working remotely and being out of the general groove – your colleagues are once again people and not your dogs – can be tough. If you’re feeling anxious, feel it and use these techniques to help you on top of chatting to your employer. You’ve got this and can navigate the ups and downs with the best of them. And, if you’re looking to work in a COVID compliant, functional, affordable workspace you know who to call. We have offices spaces in Cape Town and Joburg – come say hi
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