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Six tips for managing back-to-work anxiety

With many workplaces reopening their doors amidst the easing of coronavirus restrictions, this has the potential to be a stressful time for people that are returning to their usual workspaces.

There are a number of reasons that you may be feeling on edge about returning to work. Here are some examples of these issues and some tips to help you manage your anxiety.

Causes for concern


If you’ve been working from home for the last few months, you might be nervous about using public transport again. Given the government-issued direction on physical distancing has been based around reducing the spread of the coronavirus, this is a valid concern.

The idea of going from keeping 1.5 metres away from everyone, including loved ones, to sharing a peak-hour train with dozens of other commuters, is understandably stressful.


Sharing equipment

The nature of sharing a worksite or office space is such that you’ll also be sharing a lot of the same stuff. In traditional offices, this ranges from communal bathrooms and kitchens (including cutlery) to meeting rooms, desks and computers. This is especially relevant for office workers who work for businesses that hot desk.

Construction sites, gyms and allied health studios will all face their own unique challenges when it comes to using the same equipment, as will a plethora of other industries and workplaces.


Changing routines

While many people will be excited to return to some form of normality, there will be others that have become accustomed to their new arrangements. For those who have been working from home, you’ve had the opportunity to sleep in longer and wear tracksuit pants all day.

Parents who have had more time with their children as a result of COVID-19 may be apprehensive about not being able to do so moving forward.

What can you do


1. Voice your concerns

If you’re feeling uncomfortable about returning to work, don’t keep it to yourself. Be honest with your employer so you can work through any issues together. This is an unprecedented situation for them as well, and they may not be aware of things that are worrying their staff unless they are informed.


2. See if flexibility is an option

While many businesses are reopening their doors, it doesn’t mean that working from home is off the table completely. 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.


3. Look after yourself & prioritise self care by maintaining positive habits

You might find yourself focusing a lot of energy into going back to work, and some things can fall by the wayside. Make sure self-care isn’t one of these. Continue to prioritise activities that keep you centred and happy, whether they be exercise, eating well, meditation or simply connecting with loved ones.

While isolation has been very difficult in most respects, there have been some silver linings. With more spare time, many of us have picked up new hobbies or reignited old passions. It could be painting, reading, cooking, meditating, even your newfound love for jigsaw puzzles. It’s more important than ever to prioritise self-care, so continue the things that put you in a good headspace.

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, available on the App Store and Google Play, that lets you complete activity-based challenges to build mental fitness.

This sustained period of isolation has helped people put the important things into perspective, so try not to lose that as you ease back into your ‘old’ life.


4. Manage your information intake

During the coronavirus pandemic, we’ve become accustomed to updates from the media on virtually everything on a regular basis. Make sure you’re getting your information from reliable sources and remember that advice from regulators and government is designed to enable safe ways of working.

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.


5. Understand what constitutes a mentally healthy workplace

With so many people working from home full time over the last few months, the grey area between professional and personal has been blurred like never before. While unemployment has been an unfortunate by-product of COVID-19, plenty of organisations are super busy in response to the coronavirus, and some employees have been working longer hours than normal.

Everyone has a role to play in helping create to a mentally healthy workplace. With so much change to our ways of working, this period of transition is the ideal time to make sure you’re across workplace mental health risk factors, in order to avoid them.

By doing so, you can reduce the likelihood of burnout and job satisfaction.


6. Celebrate the opportunity to reconnect

There have been a few perks associated with working from home, such as no commuting and additional spare time, but we’ve also lost a lot. This includes things most of us probably took for granted, such as morning coffee runs with colleagues or staff drinks (that aren’t over Zoom) at the end of a long week. Even just being able to talk to a co-worker to ask a quick question or have a chat has been missed.

So when the time does come to return to the office or the worksite, enjoy the little things that have been absent over the last three months. Take the time to have that one-on-one conversation with a colleague. Visit your regular café, just like you used to.

They might seem small, but these actions can help with establishing some normality back into your routine.


This article was originally published as two articles by Beyond Blue. You can read the original articles here and here.  Photo by Madeleine Ragsdale

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