Phased returns to the workplace are now in sight for many of us, as the UK slowly but surely eases the lockdown after months of remote working. Although it's still hard to say when all organisations will be able to return to the workplace, it's important for us to be fully prepared to tackle the new normal.
Due to the social distancing rules currently in place, which are likely to continue for some time, it's not unusual to feel uncertain and dubious about a return to work. This is an extremely strange journey for everyone and you're certainly not alone. Going back to work will welcome different experiences and challenges, from those that work in an office environment or construction sites to those working in hospitality or distribution centres.
If you've either been working from home or returning after a time of furlough, check out our advice to getting back on track to a positive and effective working routine.
Prepare in advance
Preparation is key! Remember that life has recently been anything but normal and unsurprisingly, it won't be 'normal' for some time, therefore its important to think outside the box of what you may need to prepare in advance for heading back to work.
We've all been guilty of grabbing the closest thing in our wardrobe when working from home, whether that's our comfy gym clothes (with no intention of working out) or a smart shirt to look presentable on Zoom with joggers on the bottom! With many things to organise before returning to work, don't let your outfit stress you out in the morning. Take some time the week before to set out your outfits for each day, ensuring a smooth morning routine to get you back into it.
There will be many changes to the way companies operate on a day to basis and one thing to consider is the limited usage of communal kitchens, including fridges, cutlery and other shared essentials that may not be available. You should take time to, therefore, organise your lunches for the week and gather some snacks for each day to not only make sure you are prepared for changes within the office but also to keep yourself safe from what may linger on shared surfaces. You may even be uncertain about visiting busy coffee shops or cafes, so take these reservations into consideration before you're working week commences.
Being prepared physically is just the half of it! Many of us have experienced mental health challenges over the lockdown period and these may be heightened when the time comes to finally return to the workplace. It's important to put yourself and your mental well-being first to avoid burnout.
Returning to work after a long period off can be extremely daunting and it's easy to feel a little apprehensive about the new way of working. From making sure you adhere to social distancing at all times to cleaning regularly and sharing bathrooms, there are many changes that we will all need to familiarise ourselves with. You should identify a healthy balance between work time and you time, whether that be making sure you take a couple of breaks for fresh air per day to refresh or listening to calming music on your lunch break. Remember to also prioritise your home life and leave work at the office, it's easy to get caught up in late nights and email checking 24/7 after such a long time away from work.
Talk to your friends and family before you start back, they may even be on the same boat and can provide some advice on how to deal with the return to work. It's also crucial to chat with your co-workers and manager if you are feeling anxious, to identify your concerns and how you will overcome them together. Schedule regular check-ins with your line manager to ensure you are regularly catching up on how you are doing and if there are any issues you may want to flag.
To avoid running around like a headless chicken on your first day back at work, take some time to re-perfect your morning routine. Remember throughout the past few months there hasn't been a great need to get suited and booted to sit around your house, or spend a considerable amount of time on your hair or make up for no one else to see. Re-adjusting to a morning routine can be tough, so start early to ensure you settle back into an effective schedule.
You may have also developed a new sleeping routine over the course of lockdown, therefore its vital to get back into your previous pattern to avoid the morning struggle. Set your alarm to the time you plan to get up for a few days before you start back at the workplace to get your body used to these timings. This will make it a lot easier when the day comes to return.
Many companies have introduced staggered start and finish times for those who rely on public transport to get to work, so make sure you have noted all of this information so that you can organise your days effectively. Public transport users may also need to take into consideration the need for mandatory masks and extra precautions so keep these elements in mind before your first day back.
At the workplace
It's important to remember that even if you are fairly calm and relaxed, there may be others around you facing concerns about being back in the working environment. Remain alert about your surroundings and pay attention to the new procedures in place that employees must adhere to, whether that's social distancing or regular cleaning throughout the day. Make sure you spend some time becoming familiar with new processes and fit them into your working routine appropriately. Although your employer has probably organised cleaning essentials and masks for the workplace, you may want to invest in your own cleansing materials such as hand sanitiser that you can keep handy wherever you go. Prepare to also keep most of our catch-ups and meetings digital! Even though essential business are starting to return to work, platforms such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams will very much be the new go-to for a good while due to many businesses adopting a remote working workforce.
Returning to work can be overwhelming and you're probably thinking... where do I start?! Take a deep breath and focus on planning out your first few days effectively. Prepare a realistic to-do list to ease yourself into your working routine again and don't be too hard on yourself if you experience some initial teething problems. Remember to also take care of your mental and physical wellbeing when you return to the workplace, making sure you aren't encouraging high-stress levels and burnout by overworking in order to catch up.
Heading back to work and re-mastering your working routine may be challenging considering the circumstances, so it's essential to be prepared, knowledgable about any new processes and ensure your wellbeing remains a priority.
Are you going coming off furlough to a home working environment? Or maybe you've bagged yourself a new role which allows you to work from home? Check out our other latest blog post on how to successfully start a remote working role!