“COVID normal” is almost upon us. In Victoria (Australia) we are now allowed to have more people onsite. Businesses can have up to 75% of their workforce in the office. And, just like working from home caused nervousness and anxiety, so too will going back into the office. Here are some things you could try to help deal with those nerves:
- Talk about your feelings with colleagues.
- Discuss transition arrangements (i.e., don’t go back into work 5 days a week).
- As leaders, don’t expect massive improvements to productivity just because “we’re all onsite now”.
The last week has seen a lot of businesses in Victoria transition back to work including universities putting more and more people on site. We’ve also had a lot of changes to the way we were allowed to be at work in terms of density. This has created a range of different responses from the people that I work with from PhD students to early career researchers.
One of the most common one that I’m seeing is anxiety about returning to work. A lot of people are feeling conscious about it. I’d like to say right now, don’t feel conscious about feeling anxious about returning to work on-site. Don’t feel conscious about feeling nervous about returning to work on-site. Having social anxiety around these things is to me anyway it seems quite usual, quite normal for people to be going through this. I know that it feels odd that you might feel anxious about working from home when corona first happened, and now you feel anxious going back into work. but this is all a massive change. We’ve been working from home for such a long period of time now that this feels really different. The social situation feels different. It feels different commuting. It feels different doing the work. Particularly, when for many of us we’ve learned that working from home is now just as effective. We’ve got all the resources that we need at home. We’ve got all of the infrastructure that we need at home. Commuting and working with other people in another office people. For some people, having to get you know dressed up appropriately for work, all of that just feels hard, and difficult So know that if you’re going through this, that it’s that it could be tough, and that it’s okay for it to be tough.
If you’re a boss or a manager or supervisor and you know you’re dealing with a bunch of your staff going through this transition even if they haven’t expressed to you that they’re feeling nervous or anxious, they probably are so. I’d encourage you at the next meeting that you have just to raise it as a topic. Ask people, how are they going? How are they feeling? If you’re a boss, and you’re feeling anxious you know, being open about it. Talking about your anxiety about your nervousness, about your worry is really useful. I know some bosses that I’ve spoke to over the last week or so have talked about potential drop in productivity or they’re hoping that they’ll get an increase in productivity is people come back to the office. So being open that’s what you’re thinking, and what you’re expecting might help your staff as well but also let them express how they feel. They might not feel that they’ll be that productive as they make that transition. They might not feel that it will be that easy. So, like I said be open to that. Be open to people feeling different from you about the transition back into onsite work. So, if you’re making that transition, and you’re finding it tough and you want some help or support or advice, there’s lots of resources out there. Feel free to reach out to me, and I’ll see what I can do to help.