As organizations begin to create a safe return to work plan, it’s natural for employees to have some uncertainty and concerns returning to on-site work environments, as well as to public life in general.
The precariousness of the COVID-19 situation and not having all of the answers can create real anxiety, especially for those professionals who do not have the option to continue working from home full-time.
Part of the anxiety stems largely from the unknown. The natural worries about what to expect can be frightening. What will it be like to return to work? What will be different? How do I feel about being back in an office? The list of questions goes on and the concerns grow. The reality is we only know what we know now. So, it is important to focus on the “WIN” what’s important now. I personally found this to be instrumental during the initial onsets of the “stay at home” orders. I felt anxious even though I had prepared as best as I could. What I did not realize is the anxiety was largely based on what I COULDN’T control. That is when I heard a message from a news broadcaster that said she had learned about focusing on the WIN and she began to write sticky notes across her home to remind her to take a moment to breath and shift her efforts on what was important to her at that very moment. Of course, the WIN was important during the onsets of the pandemic because it was so new, but a lot of the fundamentals can apply to the RTW plan as you transition back into the workplace. Like your most important events, RTW work requires planning. Below are some tips to help you be successful and feel confident that you have identified what you can and cannot control during this new phase.
I asked a few professional in my network what they were doing to prepare to go back to the office and thought it would be helpful to share their suggestions.
1. Develop a RTW Plan
Developing plans may seem obvious considering it’s become part of our everyday habits. However, generally it is used to describe what organizations are doing to prepare their employees to RTW. In this case, we are focusing on what you as an employee needs to feel comfortable with RTW. Focus on understanding what your personal restrictions and comfort levels are as it pertains to RTW. Ask yourself; can you return to work full-time? What is your comfort level? What restrictions will you need to consider? What personal changes will you now need to consider and plan for that didn’t exist pre-pandemic (i.e., childcare, relocation, health)
2. Assess Your Personal Readiness
A significant part of a successful RTW plan is based on the plan itself but also the readiness of its team. This is the time to truly self-reflect on your personal readiness to RTW. Understanding what your capabilities are will help you understand how successful you will be in your response to your employer’s expectation. This may require an evaluation of your performance pre and during the pandemic. How accessible are you? Did eliminating a commute extend your on-work time? How successful where you with virtual collaboration? With a better understanding of how you have been contributing through the pandemic you can then consider whether you need to be physically present at the office to return to work.
3. Communicate with Your Manager
As organizations and individuals return-to-work, there is likely to be some trial & error. Be sure to stay in communication with your manager to ensure that you have a clear understanding of what are the non-negotiables of the RTW plan. Although many individuals have received direct RTW plan communications from the employers, they also suggested that having a brief call or video meeting with their mangers prior to their start date has really helped manage their anxiety about what to expect. They have also scheduled RTW team planning video sessions just to get on the same page as to how others are managing the transition. Your feedback is essential for the RTW programs your employer is developing. Don’t hesitate to discuss your concerns.
Most importantly, mentally prepare yourself to the fact that things will be different. You will most likely not be going back to the environment you left. Your personal workspace may be different, how common area workspace is used may be different, even the eateries you use to frequent may have different eat in policies. Keep in mind that whatever steps were taken are to ensure a safe work environment.
Lastly, use the resources to manage your anxiety. Exercise, mediation, good eating habits and counseling are great places to start. Don’t forget to check your employer’s benefits website or again, talk to your manager. And as always, we’re here to help. Please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions you might have. Arrange a complimentary discussion today at firstname.lastname@example.org.