Back to the office – self-care can make returning to work easier

In our first of three articles tackling the question of mental wellness and going back into the workplace, we look at how nurturing your mental wellbeing can help you adjust.

Everyone has had a unique experience of the COVID-19 lockdown and will be coming out of it with different concerns and expectations. These tips are just as relevant to employers as employees, and steps you can start taking today to make your return more positive.

Do Some Research

Maz Alexander said her advice to those returning to the workplace is to “do some research so that you can make an informed choice”. How do you return in a way that works for you?

Although the options will be different depending on the sector you work in or the type of job you do, think about the level of PPE you might wear. Your journey to work. Ask around to see what actions friends and family are taking. Having a plan in place will help you feel comfortable with the transition.

Wellbeing

Alexander said: “My advice is to eat well, sleep well and take breaks.” She says those taking wellness seriously are better able to deal with the stress the Covid-19 pandemic has inevitably created for everyone. She said: “Not sleeping can lower a person’s mood and disrupt functioning – which can lead to more serious interventions having to take place.”

She added: “Teachers have been particularly affected, as often they are not prepared to confide in their employers about any mental health issues they might be having.” They fear that they will be seen to being not up to the job and so are suffering in silence.

“The Equalities Act means employers have to make allowances,” Alexander said. “There is a cost to all of us in this pandemic – not only financial but emotional too.”

Logistical Thinking

The charity Young Minds’ blogger, Rachel, says the pandemic has “taken its toll on my mental health”. In her blog she explains how she came to understand that thinking logistically eased her anxiety, “…whatever changes have to be made, and whatever is scary, find something that you enjoy to focus on.” The Young Minds website has plenty of advice on coping strategies that can be found here

A Teacher’s View

Jon Richards is a sixth-form college lecturer in southern England who’s been working from home since lockdown. The college closed its doors on 27 March, with exams scrapped and lessons taking place via video conferencing.

He is anxious about full re-opening in September, citing problems around social distancing. He said: “There is not even enough space for all the staff to safely return, let alone the students – and many of them don’t think the social distancing rules apply to them.”


His anxiety is exacerbated by the lack of a plan, or communication of a plan, from the college. “I’ve been told nothing about how the college authorities are going to make it safer. We share keyboards, computers, audio visual equipment – not to mention door handles, light switches, loos, the cafeteria. It worries me and I’ve spoken to colleagues who feel the same.”

Wednesday’s article will look more deeply at communication around the return to work after COVID-19 and the positive steps employers can take when it comes to getting employees on-board with their plans.

If you need to talk to someone about your own mental wellness, support is available from organisations such as NHS Every Mind Matters , Mind , The Samaritans and Anxiety UK


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