I talked in my last article about how to take care of your mental health during the long weeks in lockdown. For some, this period is coming to end and the workforce is re-entering the world still with certain restrictions in place. It feels for most that we have to jump in and out of two worlds; one safe and secure at home, not mixing and the other at work outside, with presumed risk and threat of harm.
It’s not going to be easy for all. This article aims to highlight the concerns that I have been hearing from those I work with. Although I’m unable to give answers to all the concerns and anxieties that you may have, I hope in some way I can help you feel less alone and ok how you feel.
For some the return to work can either feel like an escape from the prison of lockdown or the return to the constrictions of work.
Some have shared with me how lockdown and the time away from work has allowed them to explore themselves more than ever before, taking time to look after themselves physically and increasing time with family. Spending time alone and in thought without the distraction of work has been for some empowering in ways most profound discovering not only self and own needs but those closest to them, discoveries children and their inner worlds whilst home schooling. Those that experienced the positive in lockdown are reluctant to let go, to give up this new found freedom. This situation has given lots of people permission to just be, to not have to realise should and musts and feeling more in control of their time and space. Some might even be now questioning a change of direction. It may be useful to talk to your work colleagues and share this or even your Management /HR.
Some people whose work played a prominent role in their life taking more than a fair share of their life pie (over half) against family time , fun time, play time, taking care of self-time, and reflection, have felt a loss of identity. Without work the daily persons taken away, leaving them without purpose and meaning. These people are sharing the rush to return talking of “normality” and “old life” but it’s important to remember going from nothing to 40+ hours a week, rushing to get back to forget and erase from our mind this period may not be useful. Ask about or consider phased return this is always used in other periods when off long term and proven to be more useful in retaining staff. Also sit down and do a life pie search google lots online to help get balance going forward. Again talk to colleagues, management and HR.
Returning to work brings for some increased worries or return of previously worked through “not good enough” feelings about performance and being “up to it”. It’s common in those in high positions in the work place to have this type of anxiety “imposter syndrome”. Remind yourself its natural to feel lost and unsure after long time even those returning to work after two weeks holiday take few days to adjust and awaken the mind to tasks at work. Close your eyes and picture yourself pre lockdown in the workplace and see yourself in the role performing and achieving and remember this is you.
Childcare can be an issue for those who rely on parents who are shielding or have long term health conditions, talk to HR , be open and honest and be prepared to try other options for now look outside box but only if its comfortable for you and your children.
Be kind on yourself, be gentle with your words, show compassion to the place you find yourself right now, it’s going to take some time to get back to a work routine its ok. If you share with colleagues you’ll discover you’re not alone in anxieties they may be different ones but they will have them. You may help each other in giving space/voice to them and they in turn help you.
All employers will have been in contact with employees about the physical safety of the workplace. Everyone will now be aware of the steps taken to make workplace safe and how to take responsibility keeping self-safe when returning.
It’s ok to ask the questions about taking care of you mentally and sharing any anxieties around emotional support going forward. Some companies provide mental health service via an Employee assistance programme so ask your employers about this, maybe they could look into providing if not.
There is no getting away from how the workplace post Covid will be very different than before, so “normality” in the sense of “how it was” may never be possible for most. What I hope for you all is that you return to place of safety and calm that you had pre Covid, a place of more stability and knowing and security in your workplace.
Seek professional help; look online for counsellors local to you.
“You don’t have to see the whole staircase, you just have to take the first step”
Martin Luther King Jr.