As we emerge from what (we hope) is the last lockdown, the government is encouraging people to return to the workplace. For many people, the worry and stress of the pandemic has been replaced by the prospect of going back to work that, for many, involves close contact with colleagues, customers and clients. Those of us who have been working from home or furloughed since the early days of the pandemic will dread the thought of returning to ‘the daily grind’ after such a long time away.
Having spent months at home minimising potential contact with the virus, people are being expected to jump on a bus, ride the train or tube to return to the workplace. What used to be an everyday, common experience (travel) is now fraught with worry of catching COVID-19 or the thought of other family and household members bringing the potential for infection into the home. After many months of isolation; the fear of returning to work is very real and many are now experiencing a whole new level of worry and concern.
Research has revealed that 65% of workers have expressed feelings of anxiety regarding a return to work. Concerns about effective social distancing were noted by 42% of those questioned whilst 38% expressed anxiety about commuting so if you are worried, you are not alone. To be able to get back to the new ‘normal’ how can you prepare yourself for the return to work, what can you do when you get there and more importantly; what can you expect in terms of help and support?
Make sure you know what support is available
Many companies and employers have introduced new policies and measures to ensure inventory clerk and worker safety. Revisiting those guidelines will help you to understand what is in place to address issues including the change from 2+ metres to ‘normal’ levels of social distancing, the legal choice around the wearing of masks, policy on allowing tenants to be present at check outs, how to manage interim inspections and the COVID-19 testing procedures and onward protocol if you have symptoms of the illness. You can view information and guidelines in our COVID blog page
Employers will want you to feel safe in your workplace but make sure you understand what your rights are. Protect your mental wellbeing by sticking to your usual working hours – don’t be tempted to start putting in overtime and set unrealistic expectations or take on extra reports as you need to give yourself time to adjust to the new normal.
Larger companies and service providers may have protocols for supporting staff with mental health issues – this is an issue for self employed clerks as we are mostly left to our own devices when it comes to support. If you do have the option to access in-house counselling or telephone support lines make sure you take the opportunity if you feel you need to speak to someone.
If you’re really struggling with anxiety, your workplace has no support resources or you are self employed then you should talk to your GP who will have options to help you manage your concerns. Don’t forget there’s a wealth of advice available online from the NHS and other organisations, some of which have support lines for urgent support including:
Getting into the right mindset
Understandably bad habits have set in since the first lockdown, with many people commenting that they have been getting up late, taking less exercise, eating and drinking more, all of which leads to poor sleep, low self esteem and lack of motivation.
The first step is to reestablish your daily routine and include some light but regular exercise combined with a well-balanced diet and perhaps reduce your alcohol intake. All of this will help you to feel better physically and improve your mental wellbeing. Ensure you get a good night’s sleep by setting yourself a time to hit the hay; switching off your phone or TV and try to relax before turning off the lights. These small changes will help you to drift off more easily, reduce your anxiety levels and help you to become more confident and less stressed about the return to work.
Don’t rush – be kind to yourself
We have all been through a very difficult time as this unprecedented crisis has evolved and it will be just as difficult for your co-workers and managers to cope with the changes. They are likely to be experiencing similar anxieties so don’t be embarrassed when asking for help and don’t berate yourself as everyone’s experiences and situation has been different and often unique so try not to draw a parallel with how others maybe feeling.
It’s okay to not be ok
It’s totally understandable that you will feel out of sorts, especially as you may have gotten out of the habit of commuting and working with other people. Go easy on yourself and give yourself some time to get back to some level of normality by easing yourself into your new routine. Plan it, don’t rush and set yourself realistic goals like the time to get up, get dressed and start your journey so you can minimize any potential stress points.
If commuting is the main cause of your stress, then perhaps working flexibly could alleviate this. Ask your employer if you can work a few days at home or vary your working hours so that you can travel in quieter periods. As inventory providers, our work is often led by the needs of the client however they are likely to have similar concerns so discuss their reporting needs and plan how you can both get the jobs done whilst minimising any potential risks and stress points.
Changing work habits and methods of working is also worth considering. In the rental sector on-site interim property visits were very much the norm however alternatives have been developed in direct response to the pandemic. Options now include remote property inspections using live inspections to complete both management tasks, triage of issues and maintenance queries as well as self service for tenants who may need to self isolate.
Whatever your concerns are, don’t bottle them up, talk with your manager or work buddies – it’s amazing how much better you will feel when you share your feelings with other people who (more than likely) feel the same as you do.
Getting back into a work routine
We are all starting to establish and feel our way through to our own ‘new normal. We still have a way to go yet but there are positives to returning to work. Most of us miss social interaction and seeing co-workers again can provide that much needed help and support. It’s also good to separate (as much as possible) home from work life. The pandemic seems to have merged the two into one, blurring the lines especially as many of us still and will probably continue to work from home.
Where possible set a routine: when you get up, dress and open the laptop. Try to work and live in separate rooms and make sure you get up once in a while and stretch your legs as people often will work through the day, forgetting to take a break which can heighten stress levels. Go make a drink, put the washing on, pop to the shops or take a stroll around a local park.
Don’t forget the positives
Clearly, the horrific loss of life and battle to overcome this dreadful disease will continue for many years to come and should and can never ever be forgotten. However, there is a more positive outlook emerging. This includes embracing better work practices and gaining a more harmonious work life balance especially as there are now more opportunities for people to retrain and diversify careers after experiencing furlough or loss of roles.
There is also more of a focus on personal relationships and mental well being. If the pandemic has done one thing that can be seen as a positive step forward is that it has made us all realize that there is more to life than just working. Sense of family has developed a stronger sense of community as people help and look out for each other more than ever before.
Through difficult times and adversity there is renewed enthusiasm to develop a spirit of openness and support across communities and globally. And as we continue our long journey out of the pandemic; we are finally starting to see the flickering embers of hope.