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The reluctant return: How to reduce anxiety when returning to the office

As lockdown restrictions are easing and the possibility of people returning to work is becoming more of a reality, there is a common feeling of back to work worries and anxiety. Although employees have been working from home, there have also been many people who have been unable to work their jobs a

As lockdown restrictions are easing and the possibility of people returning to work is becoming more of a reality, there is a common feeling of back to work worries and anxiety. Although employees have been working from home, there have also been many people who have been unable to work their jobs at all and the prospect of going back to what was once familiar to them can also be anxiety inducing.

What is anxiety?

Anxiety is an extremely common and normal emotion that is felt by so many people. It can be an extreme feeling of stress, panic or worry that lasts over a long period of time and is hard to control. Symptoms can include anything from feeling restless to full-blown panic attacks.

With any form of anxiety the results can stop you from carrying out the most basic of tasks and feel very debilitating. This not only impacts your day to day ability, but can also be impactul on your work. The uncertainty surrounding Covid-19 and the instability has been a catalyst for so many people around the world for their anxious feelings.

The changes that came with the Covid-19 outbreak, alongside the career changes for so many people, has shown that over 50% of people in workforces from Australia, France, Germany, New Zealand, Singapore and the UK are feeling more anxious since the outbreak.

More people in the workfore are more anxious because of Covid -19

Source: Statista

Back to work Anxiety

Although familiarity often reduces stress and fear levels, for so many people, the prospect of returning to the office is something that is becoming increasingly stress-inducing. A recent study showed that two-thirds of US employees are feeling anxious about returning to a physical office or workspace. This is predominantly because of the fears linked to health and wellbeing upon return. The general consensus is that companies may not fully protect their employees and relax the restrictions and measures too early.

Although there have been monumental changes to the world and how people are now choosing to work, there are a few things you can do to prepare yourself for the adjustment that will come to going back to work. Ensuring that you are creating an environment in which you are most likely to succeed when it comes to tackling any back to work anxiety you may have.

Things you can do to reduce back to work anxiety

Just as going into the pandemic many people had to reroute themselves to become acquainted with home working, the same has to be said to going back into the office. Even though it is a familiar place that was once an everyday part of our life, many people have not even set foot in their offices and places of work for the last year. Re-routing yourself to new habits and routines can be difficult so reminding yourself of the positives of going back to work may be a good start.

Think about seeing your work friends and colleagues again as well as the prospect of establishing a work space that is separate from home.

Be Prepared

Paired with thinking about the positives, making sure that your own body has gone through an MOT can help you prepare for the negatives that you are expecting and fearful of. Experts have outlined that physical as well as mental wellbeing is vital that you’re setting yourself up to be as comfortable as possible when reacquainting yourself with the office. From ensuring your eye health and glasses are in tip top shape to preparing your immune system for going back in, this preparation can help you reduce your back to work anxiety.

Making sure your body is at peak performance can be achieved by planning your time about a week before you are due to go back in and using that time to ensure you are eating well and fuelling your body with things that make you feel good. As much as turning to junk food can momentarily make us feel better, the impact that these foods can have on our bodies may not be the best before planning on going back into the office.

Communication is key

Sometimes the avoidance of upcoming events that are anxiety-inducing can come back and bite us with even more anxiety. With back to work anxiety, in particular, expressing your concerns about why you might be feeling the way you are to your employer or boss could result in putting your mind at ease about certain things. Just as the previous studies have shown a large proportion of people who are concerned and anxious about returning to work is based on their worries that employers will relax restrictions prematurely, they can offer you their assurance through prior contact.

By communicating with your employer about what they will be doing to ensure employee safety could be a great way to reduce your anxiety and get clear-cut answers to what may have been the source to your worries. You may even be able to negotiate a phased return to reduce the risk of feeling overwhelmed and perhaps even balance out the way that you work between the office and your home space.

Daily Routine

Just as you acclimatised to working from home and what is now considered the ‘new normal’, you can try and re-establish a routine when going back into work and into the workplace. Starting small is key as to not overwhelm yourself. By navigating things that you can control you are more likely to set yourself up for success when it comes to your anxieties. For example, getting your morning routine aligned with how you want to feel. If having a good hearty breakfast is your priority in the morning, allow yourself the time to make sure that you enjoy your breakfast before you leave for work, or simply prepare it the night before to eat once you get into the office. Giving yourself that time to relish in your morning and your morning routine can set you up to tackle you going back to work with a ready mindset.

Be Kind

The pandemic and the changes that so many of us have had to deal with is by no means an easy feat, so being kind to yourself when it comes to going back to work and the anxieties you may be feeling is super important. Just as you’ve adapted to the changes that Covid-19 has bought, you will adapt to what the future has to bring, so don’t be too hard on yourself.


Daniel Jack

For Daniel, journalism is a way of life. He lives and breathes art and anything even remotely related to it. Politics, Cinema, books, music, fashion are a part of his lifestyle.