Some workers feel nervous about going back to the office. Here are our tips to make your transition as frictionless as possible.
As employees begin steadily streaming back to the workplace, the old morning routine starts once again: up at the crack of dawn, wearing that mask that steams up your glasses and awkwardly overcoming some inconsiderate person on the Tube invading your personal space. After two years of working at least partly from home, do we really have to adjust all over again – and do we even want to?
Walking into the office or site at 9am, it still feels like a ghost town compared with the bustling and buzzy workplaces of 2019. Speaking to the OSH professionals who have ventured back to the coalface, or never left, face-to-face interactions beat the endless conversations on Zoom hands down. Conversing with someone in person – with all the freewheeling and, yes, sometimes inconsequential avenues you are able to take – feels very special. Maybe it takes more time but it feels more human, more organic, than waiting for your turn to speak among a sea of faces in boxes. It’s clear we took this personal touch for granted before the pandemic began.
The transition to hybrid working has offered employees greater freedom to work from anywhere in the world, offering a better work/life balance. But a return to work requires a beady-eyed look at your finances. Employees are saving on average £300 a month on commuting, according to a study by Confused.com. If you are returning to the office full-time, you may need to recalculate your outgoings to ensure you can account for extra work-related purchases. All too many of us have got used to saving money that was usually spent on coffee at the train station, Pret sandwiches and Friday drinks with colleagues.
Some firms have implemented hybrid working indefinitely, which has resulted in the current office space exceeding their needs. Many firms are downsizing their premises to accommodate a more flexible way of working. In a hot-desking model, no employee will have a dedicated desk as before – so no pictures of loved ones, screens festooned with Post-its or the usual employee detritus. You can sit anywhere for the day and take your belongings home with you at the end of the working day.
Tips for making a successful return to work
- Establish a morning routine that works for you
- Make a list of stationery you need to take
- Plan your journey into the office
- Check on new arrangements made by your employer
- Check on your IT situation – are you expected to take your computer in, or are you being issued with a laptop for hybrid working?
- Arrange childcare/for your pets to be looked after
- Prepare snacks for your day to avoid overspending
- Email yourself any passwords/login details you may need.
A study by psychologists from the University of Chester and the University of Central Lancashire found that one in 10 workers felt anxious about returning to the office.
Older workers feel more concerned about returning to the office, according to a study by manufacturing company Airdri. Its survey of 2,000 people found that just 16 per cent of under-24s were concerned about picking up germs, compared with 43 per cent of over-25s.
Interestingly, 32 per cent of under-24s were not looking forward to face-to-face meetings compared with only 20 per cent of those aged 45 and over. Perhaps a more online-savvy generation is happier in a screen-only world.
Charities such as Anxiety UK and Mind offer support for anyone needing support with their mental health and anxiety.
It is therefore important for employers and OSH professionals to listen to their employees and adapt their ways of working to retain their best talents within the workforce. If you haven’t already, why not use an online survey to poll your workers – you may find certain departments, such as sales, perform better as a physically present team and can be better managed.
We should try to make the most of the return to the office and meeting our work colleagues in case another Covid variant leads to another exodus to the home office. It is enjoyable to interact with people in person, and having a mixture of home and on-site working will keep staff happy for the most part and lead to success, for both employers and employees, in the future.
References useful for OSH professionals
Airdri. (2021) Older generations anxious about health risks of returning to work. See: https://airdri.com/blog/older-generations-anxious-about-health-risks-of-returning-to-work/ (accessed 2 February 2022).
Anxiety UK. (2021). Get help. See: https://www.anxietyuk.org.uk/get-help/ (accessed 2 February 2022).
Confused.com. (2021) Commuters save as much as £300 a month working from home during lockdown. See: www.confused.com/press/releases/2021/commuters-save-as-much-as-300-a-month-working-from-home-during-lockdown (accessed 2 February 2022).
Marter J. (2022) 13 tips for transitioning back to the office. Psychology Today. See: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/mental-wealth/202201/13-tips-transitioning-back-the-office (accessed 8 February 2022).
Mind. (2022) Guides to support and services. See: https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/guides-to-support-and-services/ (accessed 2 February 2022).
University of Chester. (2021) Psychologists urge employers to make workplace fit for post-pandemic future. See:
https://www1.chester.ac.uk/news/psychologists-urge-employers-make-workplace-fit-post-pandemic-future (accessed 2 February 2022).