Throughout the pandemic, we’ve all discussed the things we can’t wait to do again; from sitting out in a pub garden, to finally being able to catch up with friends and even taking a holiday abroad. But now, with the UK government half way to lifting all restrictions in England, the reality of returning to a life unfettered by lockdown is starting to kick in.
Change is scary. Uprooting what we’re familiar with, towards something that’s outside our established comfort zone, is unnerving. Lauren Geall, writing for the Stylist, is spot on when she says “in a weird way, lockdown has become a kind of comfort zone”. For many, the idea of going ‘back’ to the office feels like a mountain of challenges to be climbed.
It’s well worth planning a transition back to your physical workplace that provides a softer landing for you, your mental health and the people you manage. We’ve dug a little deeper into how this can be achieved and these are our top 5 suggestions:
1. Take small steps
Dr Tara Swart tells British Vogue, “It’s understandable that the time before us feels like an abyss, but we can use it to gently prepare ourselves for the idea of re-entry”. It’s important to master the art of pacing yourself: easing into the outside world without exceeding your own tolerance to change. You were capable of adjusting to the huge challenges of lockdown life and you will be able to switch out of it too.
2. Prioritise wellness
The easing of lockdown brings great opportunities that we’ve been aspiring to for months, most notably resuming real-world contact with family and friends. But let’s face it, the return to a life free of pandemic restrictions is going to be emotionally exhausting. We’ll be honest, there’s nothing we can say here that can surpass the superb advice offered by folks at The Mental Health Foundation. If you are finding it hard to travel to work or engage in certain activities because of anxiety or fear, speak with your manager about it – remember many workplaces will be accepting of flexible working routines into the foreseeable future.
3. Make time to reconnect
Reconnecting with coworkers socially (and offline!) will do wonders for helping you reacclimatise to the workplace. Whether it’s a walk in a park, a good ol’ natter over a cup of tea or with a tasty lunch (we can help with that); having the time and space to check-in with the people you work with is a must. Here experiences and concerns can be shared, worries can be debunked and a sense of commiradiary can be restored. Following the wise words of Chris Cancialosi writing for Forbes, “If you’re comfortable in being vulnerable, find ways to productively share your emotions and fears associated with the future”.
The pandemic established a sentiment that ‘we may not be on the same boat, but we’re in the same storm’. This will still apply as we all readjust to a post-lockdown, each with our own separate challenges. Keep a dialogue going with your coworkers and employer, so everybody knows what they can do to help each other in adapting to their new realities. Even though work might be as busy as ever, make sure there’s plenty of catch-ups scheduled in the calendar
5. (Continue to) be an awesome manager
Every colleague will have differing tolerance levels to change, if you’re a manager it is well worth being mindful of this as you bring your team back into the workplace. There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach. We’re all going to be emotionally exhausted as we switch back into office life. It’s important to take an open-minded management style in allowing your team to transition with a flexible work routine that incorporates occasional remote working and variable working hours.
Managers can go the extra mile by creating safe and social occasions for teams to reconnect over and to remember the interactive benefits of meeting face-to-face. If you’re looking for fresh ideas – how about one of our exciting food pop-ups in your office? We’re pro’s when it comes to providing tasty food experiences that boosts the mood within teams. Remember, happiness = productivity!