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As restrictions lift, many of us will be looking forward to getting back to ‘normal’, which for some of us will mean a return to the office. Despite restrictions lifting the reality is that we simply will not bounce back to our normal pre COVID-19 selves right away after spending the best part of a year at home. We may have largely forgotten the social norms, behaviours and routines that were once familiar to us and we will have to relearn and remember how to be around people again, how to commute, how to behave in an office, even simple things like how to operate the lift at work or have a conversation may be a challenge to start with. We will no doubt face many challenges on a practical and emotional level.
Feel the feelings
After a year of being in survival mode with a low level (and for some a high level) of stress in the background all the time we have a lot of feelings to process as things get back to normal. Whilst some of these feelings will be positive such as excitement and relief, we are also likely to be fearful, nervous, and anxious of the changes coming and how we will deal with them. We may have residual feelings of grief, sadness and anger for everything and everyone we lost during lockdown. Focus on what you ARE feeling rather than what you SHOULD be feeling – suppressing your feelings and emotions won’t help.
Expect to feel tired
It’s best to take things slowly and to leave some clear space in your calendar, as once you are back in the office you will initially be very tired and need time to process the change, rest and reflect. On the plus side, our brain thrives on physical activity and novelty, so after a few weeks hopefully you will feel energised as the fog of the last 18 months begins to lift.
Be prepared for setbacks
It’s likely that there will some bumps on the road back to normality. Recognise that best laid plans often have setbacks, so keep an eye on how you are feeling, how you are coping and be kind to yourself.
Don’t rush into any decisions about work
Don’t make any decisions about committing to a return to the office full time straight away if you can help it. You need to really think about what’s best for you and your situation, everyone is different. Be confident to share your feelings about returning with your line manager or HR. You may not want to work the same hours as before or you might permanently want to request to work at home. Make the new normal work for you rather than defaulting to what used to be.
Look after yourself
Many of us have got into good habits in lockdown and are managing to sleep better, eating right and getting exercise. Try not to let these healthy habits slide once you’re back in your usual routine, as they help to keep us mentally and physically well.
Share how you are feeling
Just talking to someone about your worries, a colleague, a friend, LawCare, can help you process your emotions and feel calmer and less stressed. We can all take comfort from feeling similar things as those around us in the coming weeks and months.
LawCare provides emotional support to all legal professionals, support staff and their concerned family members. You can call our confidential helpline on 0800 279 6888, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or access online chat and other resources at www.lawcare.org.uk
Excellent resources on going back to work are available on the ACAS website
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