• Laura

4 top tips for returning to the office with anxiety

After 18 months of working in my own home, the moment finally came. A moment that in all honesty, I had started to think might never happen again. A team meeting, in an office, with people who I'd spoken with and worked alongside for 15 months but never actually met in person.

I started my corporate job the same week I moved into my first house, in the middle of a global pandemic. That's meant my entire experience, from onboarding to my first anniversary and everything in between has happened in my study. It's been a really nice experience, getting to design a room that was mine to work out of. I made it so comfortable with coloured walls, plants, affirmations everywhere. I designed the perfect environment that I could thrive and do whatever I needed to do feeling relaxed, comfortable, and safe.

After the first lockdown, I was told that I was classed as vulnerable. It wasn't a complete surprise but did take me back a little, and as a result I decided I just didn't see the need to go into an office if it wasn't necessary. Little did I know that actually it would take over a year for companies to actually be able to ask us to return!

The anxiety around returning started to build early in the pandemic. Would people respect boundaries? Would I feel like an odd one out if I didn't want to shake someone's hand? Would people talk behind my back if I didn't want to go in? Would I lose out on opportunities if I stay in the comfort of my own home? The list of "what if's" began to grow and grow and before I knew it the summer of 2021 was here, and we had a team meeting scheduled for in person.

I recognise before I go any further how lucky I am to firstly be in a position that I could choose to stay at home. But also, how lucky I am to be in an organisation that *really* cares about mental health. Ahead of the session it was always made clear that if anyone wasn't comfortable, they didn't have to go in. But regardless of my anxiety and resistance, I knew it was something I needed to do. The biggest hurdle was overcoming that anxiety, which is why I wanted to write this blog post. I used a few techniques and put some things in place that truly helped me feel calm, in control, and less anxious, which hopefully might help you when you're asked to come into the office.

A problem shared is a problem not just stuck in your own head

Whilst telling someone you’re nervous might make you even more nervous, having a support system who know how you truly feel is important. Whether it’s a co-worker you trust and will be in on the day, or your mum or best mate back at home, someone who can check in, be at the other end of a call, and who knows what’s going on internally can really help when you’re feeling nervous or anxious. They might not be able to halve the nerves or resolve the anxiety for you, but on the day having a support network IRL or over the phone will help you feel less isolated with your worries.

Try to keep consistency with your home routine

If anxiety loves one thing it is uncertainty and unpredictability. So, if you’re worried about going back into the office try to find ways that you can incorporate what you like from home. One thing I’ve loved whilst working from home has been getting to create wonderful lunches rather than grabbing a quick takeaway from the canteen. Spending the night before going to the office preparing a lunch that I’d look forward to really helped give my day some familiarity and structure. I also took with me little things that I have at home on my desk again for that familiarity and recognisable set up. That included an essential oil roller, herbal remedy droppers which I use for throat chakra and confidence, and my daily journal. Having those by my laptop made me feel more at ease.

Set aside some you time

At home it was more than likely that you had a little bit of time in the day to recharge. Even if it was a five-minute breather after closing the laptop lid after a tense meeting. It can be easy for the diary to start getting booked up back-to-back with people wanting to see you face to face, so if you’re nervous at all make sure you put some time into your calendar that can’t be booked. It gives you a chance to go outside, grab a drink, hide in the bathroom, whatever you need if things get overwhelming or exhausting.

Keep your evening for you

Whatever you do, and whatever the day in the office holds, make sure that you keep your evening for you. Whether its an evening in with loved ones, a good movie saved on your Netflix list, a bubble bath and book, or trip to the pub with friends, do whatever you need to do to relax and fill up your own cup. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, putting your own needs and prioritising yourself isn’t selfish. If you’ve been nervous or anxious and overcome that either with a baby step or fully by going into the office, you deserve to do whatever you need to feel wonderful to switch off and relax.

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