Getting back into a work mindset after lockdown

The shock and disorientation of lockdown and quarantine has brought us all into a sharp reset. As we now head back to work, we have to readjust some of the things in our daily habits and routines to get back in gradually with minimal upset.

We have learned some important lessons about ourselves and the world we live in. 

How do you get back into work after being away for so long and furloughed?  

Here are some tips I am using in my coaching sessions with clients who feel overwhelmed, unsure or anxious.

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Working from home is the new normal

Working from home is the new normal for many people. Now we need to work out how to adjust back into work routines. Decide on what your new routine will be. It doesn’t have to be the same as before. 

What hours will you work now? How much of your job is better done from home? What are the advantages? Make a list and work out how your habits have changed for the better or worse.

Keep an open dialogue with your team and management to see what changes should be introduced to your working practices now post lockdown.    

Is it time to bring in some regular working hours based from home?  

Going back to work is a great time to discuss changes in working practices.  

Go slowly and gently. We are all in shock after what has happened. People may take longer to make decisions now as they are out of the habit of being at work and need to think things through more carefully. 

People have missed social time during lockdown: be tolerant and give people space.

We have missed the interaction and story sharing with others and many of us will need space and time to get used to the new normal. 

We now need to work out how to balance working from home and the office. Think about how much time you have saved from not having to commute to work every day. What other benefits has home working bought to you?

Think of the ways that this time has helped you and what it has given you that is positive 

What has worked for you during these weeks? See what new routines could be bought into your work life from your recent experiences.  

You might think about having more online meetings with others rather than travelling to meet others on the other side of the city. This saves time, energy and gives you more working time.  

Set time limits on the length of meeting calls. Try to keep to 30 minutes for meetings.

Be sensitive to the fact that people have been through a lot   

People around may feel emotional so give others some slack and think about being more sensitive than usual about the conversations you have.  We don’t know what other people have been through so it’s important to not talk about how fantastic or terrible this time was for you. Be aware other people may have faced really disturbing situations.

Working from home and office requires some balancing 

We are entering into a new normal as we go back into the new world. We have to treat each other gently in the process.

Organise your task list and do it in the best place to suit the task

Plan to do the work tasks that need you to be focussed at home (if you don’t have children!).  Plan and separate out the actions that require collaboration and teamwork and arrange for them to happen when you are in your team or office environment. Split up tasks that work better at home, and those that work better when you are back in the work environment.   

Check in with colleagues about the best working hours to suit your family life

Discuss your situation with team members and discuss that work that needs to be done and the best approach. People seem far more flexible now and it’s in everyone’s interests to help you create a better work–home balance.   We have learnt to be more tolerant and understanding about what people need in their lifestyles.

Many of the people I am coaching are introducing new ways of working to their organisation. 

Ask for flexibility to new styles of working

Whether this is checking in with more meetings on Skype, organising shared workspaces in the cloud, having certain times of the week working from your new home-office space. Many people have now set up offices at home which they did not have before. It will take time to get back into a new rhythm, so expect that and adjust your expectations.

Go slowly with your return back 

Tips for dealing with anxiety

To get over anxiety and overwhelm about going back to work: do regular exercise, take a walk outside in nature if you can. Learn to do some breathing techniques every day. Regular meditation helps dramatically to reduce stress and anxiety. I have a whole chapter in my new book The Art of Creativity about practical ways to handle fears and blocks, and how to get meditating if you are new to it. The benefits of meditation are vast and will help you rebalance and get back into your new routines.

In my new book, The Art of Creativity, there are some powerful tips for dealing with anxiety.  

For example, try deep breathing down to your stomach, making lists and setting clear priorities for each day, plan to see friends or have some social time for at least half an hour a day, keep your to do list down to a list of 3 – 5 things to keep it manageable. 

Get plenty of sleep and eat well to get nourishment from what you are eating. 

Things will be different as your return back to work. Don’t expect things to stay the same way as before. Everything has changed, the world has changed you have changed. Keep embracing changes and everything will work out in a fresh way in the new normal. 

Have more awareness of our need for social interaction with others  

One of the things we have realised in lockdown is that we all need and crave human contact with others. Having this social time taken away from us has meant we realise just how important this is for mental health and general wellbeing. Seeing friends and family and work colleagues that you like fulfils an important function in our lives and the structure of our daily routines. Most people have missed the opportunity to meet up with others and share stories and hugs.  

When you got back, gently re-establish social routines. Go slowly as people will take different times to get back into being social again so be patient and don’t rush it. People around you will need some time to get used to being back in a working team again.  

Go slow, be patient. Many people have been through a lot in these weeks and have had people close to them ill. Be sensitive with your questions and don’t try to probe too much.   

Give people space. They will need it after being locked down.  

Let’s take it gently to re-enter the new world after all this upheaval.


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