…this short guide will give you tips to help you return to workplace after lockdown

Many of us feel worried or uncertain about returning back to work after lockdown.

There are some small changes you can do to help you look after your mental health over the coming months.

Plan and prepare

Think about your job and situation. Do you need to change anything to help you do your job well, or to create a safe
work environment? Thinking through what will happen on your first day back after lockdown and making a good
daily routine now in preparation for returning to work can help reduce anxiety. Gradually exposing yourself to a situation that worries you can allow you to control your at each step.

Questions you may ask yourself:

How will I get to work?

It may be worth doing a practice run of the routine to work to know how long it will take you.

Will anything be different in the building?

A practice run will give you this information and not overwhelm you on your first day back.

Who will be there?

You can ask your colleagues or manager to find out who else in your team will be in the building on your first day back

Setting goals in preparation, 3 steps:

Step 1

Start to get up at the time you would if you were going into work – many of us have worse sleeping patterns now.

Step 2

Morning routine. Get showered, have breakfast and put on your working clothes, you could even have a short walk as a “commute” to wake yourself up and get ready to start work.

Step 3

Think about what you’ll be doing when you get back to the office, and get your things together so you’re prepared. Pre-pack your bag with everything you need for the day. E.g laptop, mug, coffee/tea, lunch, ID badge

Tidy Up!

Our work environments can have a big impact on our productivity, mental health and work satisfaction

environment is good for our mental health and can even help reduce your stress levels!

With many of us may not have been to the office for a year, our desks may need refreshing or a good clean out, think like a spring clean! Decluttering your environment has been shown to improve our mental wellbeing.

Why not take some cleaning products with you when trying a practice run to the office and get your space ready

Adding some new pictures or a plant can make you work space look nice and pleasant ready for when you go back to the office.

*Research indicates that plants can reduce stress levels and increase productivity, mental wellbeing and creativity, why not give it a try?

Talk and Connect!

It is important to keep in touch with our colleagues and line managers. You don’t have to talk about work, just a quick check-in can help us feel connected to others. Sharing our feelings can prevent us from feeling isolated and overwhelmed. Research tells us that good quality relationships with our colleagues means we have better outcomes in quality of work, higher wellbeing and greater engagement in work.

If you are feeling anxious about returning to work have a conversation with your line manager:

This can help you identify work priorities or raise any concerns or questions you may have. If you are nervous to have this conversation practice with a friend, colleague or family member, you could also write bullet point notes to remind you of what you want to say.

When we worry it’s often related to the unknown. Have a conversation with your manager can give you
information on the risk assessments they have carried out to make sure the work place is safe. You can ask how the workspace has been adapted.

Have all the appropriate information as as well as answers to your questions can help ease our worries about potential risks or dangers.

A few ideas of how to connect with colleagues away from screens:

  • Walking meetings
  • Face to face meetings
  • Coffee and tea breaks
  • Work challenges i.e. running or cycling to work/on lunch breaks
  • Engage with the wider community i.e. volunteer with colleagues at fundraising events

Anxious about safety measures?

It’s ok if you are anxious and still want to practice social distancing in the workplace, we all need to do things in our own time. Try practising what you’ll say if someone steps into your space before it happens.

1- Remember the way you say something can be as important as what you say. People may not realise they are stepping too close.

A gentle reminder of “I’m still social distancing” and taking a step back may help in these types of situations

2- Ask to see your employer’s COVID-19 safety policy. Your employer should have taken steps to ensure that returning to work is safe for employees, and customers.

Being familiar with these protocols can help put your mind at ease

Even if it’s not in your policy, you can still look out for your own safety by wearing a mask and keeping hand sanitiser on your desk to protect yourself.

3- It’s important to have regular check-ins with yourself and check-ins with your team or manager. Answers questions such as How am I coping? Could I do more to help stay mentally healthy? How are we working? Could we do anything differently that would be better? This may help you address issues as they come up and successfully work through the new way of working.

Be kind to yourself

Research suggests it takes us 3 months to learn or unlearn habits, so it’s ok to take your time!

For many of us we haven’t seen big groups of people for over a year now, it’s perfectly normal to feel overwhelmed or anxious, try not to pressure yourself to jump straight into seeing big groups of people. Accept how you are feeling and take them at your own pace.

It’s important to take time out to focus on self-care, practicing mindfulness, regularly exercising, a
healthy and balanced diet, a good sleep pattern and connecting with others can all help our mental health. Being kind to yourself can help you feel happy and productive.

Whilst you need to be kind to yourself, you also need to be aware of being kind to others. You may feel ready to get straight back to working in the office, but your colleagues may not feel like this so try to be considerate and offer to be there if they feel overwhelmed.

This toolkit is produced by our partners at Mind Solent. They offer some fantastic training courses to help manage your teams mental health and wellbeing.