Five tips for returning to the office after the pandemic

So, the furlough scheme has officially come to an end…

For some, this brings a much needed sense of normality after an unprecedented 18 month period of lockdowns and career uncertainty, as we begin to recover from the effects of the global pandemic. However, whether you’re returning to work after being placed on furlough or you’re just returning to the office after working from home for so long, there is still some trepidation about the ‘new normal’ we’re emerging into. Particularly when it comes to ways and styles of working.

So how do people really feel about returning to the workplace over the coming weeks and months? Here’s what we found out:

 

Over half of office workers not ready to return to the workplace

We ran polls across Twitter and LinkedIn back on Freedom Day (18th July), to gauge how workers were feeling about their offices beginning to open back up.

Of the 429 people who responded, over half (51%) indicated that they didn’t feel ready to return to the office.

In contrast, only 19% of those who hadn’t yet returned suggested that they felt ready to go back – though the same number (19%) said that they had happily returned already, and 11% stated that they’d reluctantly returned. 

Although it’s not clear how those returning from being furloughed might be feeling, there’s definitely a sense that many may struggle to ease back into the old routine.  

 

The rise of ‘return to work anxiety’ 

When it comes to what’s causing this sense of trepidation, there could be a number of potential factors. 

After so many months of working from home (or being on furlough), many may be worried about the potential impact returning to the office may have on their mental health. Not to mention their work-life balance. 

Additionally, although vaccinations have seen recovery rates from Covid-19 massively increase, some may still be worried about how going back to work could put their physical health at risk – especially when adding in elements such as commuting and working in a busy office. 

Luckily, there are a number of things workers (and employers themselves) can do to help make the transition a smooth one. Below are some of our top tips – as well as examples of companies who are blazing a trail when it comes to getting people back into the office safely.

 

Tips for returning to the office 

 

Find out what your company’s approach is 

For many people, one of the biggest anxieties about returning to the workplace is the fear of the unknown. 

Things are likely to have drastically changed in terms of ways of working, and knowing what new rules and restrictions have been implemented may be a cause of concern. Especially if you’ve been out-of-the loop on company comms for a while.

Seeking out your company’s return to work policy is a great place to start here, as well as reaching out to the HR team to update you on any changes. That way you’ll know what to expect around policies such as wearing masks, social distancing and etiquette in communal areas – allowing you to allay some of your fears before you go back.  

 

Explore new ways of working

If the return to work policy hasn’t answered all of your questions, the next step is to talk to your manager.

Potential options you may be able to explore could include flexible working arrangements, starting later or earlier to avoid busy commuting times, or even more of a permanent approach to working from home – which could be particularly important if you’re concerned about your health, or live with someone who could be considered vulnerable. 

A number of companies have introduced some form of working from home as a result of the pandemic, with the likes of BP, PwC, John Lewis, NatWest and Asda all allowing staff to work at least part of the week from home.

Even if your employer hasn’t formally rolled out a remote working policy, it could still be an option. In the conversation, start by listing your main concerns, and use examples from the last 16 months to demonstrate how a more permanent shift to remote working won’t hinder – and may well enhance – your performance.

 

Focus on the positives 

Going back to work will undoubtedly be a big change. However, change isn’t always a bad thing.

Although getting used to the new (old?) routine may be a challenge, there are definitely some positives that will come out of the situation. Particularly when it comes to your mental health. Not to mention your posture.

So whether it’s seeing people in person that you haven’t been in the same room with since the pandemic began, working in a more collaborative environment, or benefiting from being back at a desk again (office chair with back support > bed), returning to the office might have a number of advantages you hadn’t previously considered.

 

Be patient, and give yourself time to adjust

Even with the potential benefits listed above, getting back into the swing of office life could take some time. Particularly for those who may be returning from furlough. 

It’s therefore important not to put too much pressure on yourself, or to feel guilty that returning to the workplace is taking longer for you to get used to than your colleagues. With more than half (51%) of those we surveyed suggesting they felt this concern, it’s clear that you aren’t alone in your anxieties. Despite how it may seem on the surface.  

If your office has already opened on an optional basis, try going in once or twice a week – or whatever you feel comfortable with – until you’re asked to return full-time. Even if it just helps you ease into things and get over the initial culture shock.

 

Find something that works for you

Lives have changed irrevocably since the start of the pandemic. 

For many people, that may also mean that priorities have shifted in terms of what they look for in an employer. Which could be problematic, especially if their current role doesn’t align. 

The good news, however, is that jobs are booming. In fact, the number of jobs added to Reed.co.uk over the last few months have been at their highest in decades, indicating that candidates now hold the cards when it comes to finding work.  

So whether you’re looking for a more flexible working arrangement, the ability to work from home every week, or just want to find something better after 18 months of doom and gloom, there are thousands of great jobs out there. 

 

 

Ready to look for a job worth going back to? Find it on Reed.co.uk.