Last week I travelled into our offices in central London for the first time in 18 months. Leading up to my trip I had butterflies in my tummy; I woke at the crack of dawn with all kinds of questions floating around my mind…would my work clothes still fit me and would I find my work shoes as comfortable as the slippers I had been wearing for the past year! What would it be like on the train, would I remember which tickets I needed to purchase or where I was going? What would the COVID safe rules be at the office? What about lunch and how do we greet our friends and colleagues nowadays?
We have been running sessions for our clients recently around the topic of ‘returning to the office’. We discuss how everyone will have their own unique set of circumstances and thoughts (and perhaps concerns) about returning to the office and the new hybrid ways of working. We facilitate conversations around the topic providing a safe place for people to reflect and share how they are doing and any thoughts and concerns they may have. This is a helpful exercise in its own right but it also can give the employer important insights to take into account as it plans for the coming months. We also provide useful psychological tools to help manage in this changing landscape.
So, what have I learnt from my return to the office?
Face your fears - if we run away from our fears they tend to grow bigger in our minds. If we face them, and keep facing them, then gradually the fear shrinks, and we start to feel more at ease.
Talk - we talked openly and in advance about any concerns we had and by doing that we all realised we had similar concerns and worries but were there to support and reassure each other along the way.
Practice and start small - before I headed into London, I did a ‘practice’ train ride. By doing so I began to feel more comfortable with the experience. I got out my work shoes and clothes and tried them on in advance (my shoes weren’t as comfortable as my slippers!) and on that first day back into the office I travelled into London out of rush hour, gave myself plenty of travel time and met my colleagues for a team lunch so it was less formal and something to look forward to.
Choose your focus – if we focus on what makes us anxious, we tend to become more anxious. If we focus on what we are looking forward to, then we start to feel more positive. So, I choose to focus on seeing my colleagues in person for the first time in 18 months and the freedom of being out and about again.
I had a great day and I don’t think I’ll feel as anxious next time!