20th Sep 2021
If you’re among the employees heading back to work in-person, it’s normal to feel a little apprehensive about the change.
Today, September 20 marks the easing of restrictions on employees working in offices. While some companies have embraced a flexible approach to remote working, allowing employees to choose whether they want to work in the office or at home, there is no doubt many others will want to get people back in a room together.
Of course, many workers have not had the option to work from home throughout the pandemic, so there is a certain amount of privilege in this issue.
However, if you’re now expected to be back in the office at least some of the time after a long period of working from home, it’s not unusual for this prospect to have caused some anxiety. Many people have not experienced this environment in over a year, and so it will naturally be an adjustment, while others will be nervous about becoming ill.
Although over 90 per cent of over 16s are now vaccinated in Ireland, breakthrough infections are still a risk, and those who are themselves vulnerable or have family members at risk may not feel comfortable sitting in a busy office once again.
Many people have not experienced this environment in over a year, and so it will naturally be an adjustment, while others will be nervous about becoming ill.
It’s worth noting that you are entitled to request the ability to work remotely from your employer, although they are not required to grant it. It is worth bringing up however, especially if you have specific reasons that you would prefer not to be in the office.
The government’s Work Safety Protocol now includes rules that require the provision of hand sanitiser, as well as allowing physical distancing “as much as is reasonably practicable” and organising workers “into teams or pods who consistently work and take breaks together”.
Ventilation is also an issue, and may require windows to be kept open to allow for adequate air flow. Where this is not possible, it advises on the use of CO2 monitors to assess air quality.
Mask wearing is not mandated in offices, although when moving around a space it is recommended.
As well as any potential risk, big changes naturally cause us anxiety. Although many of us have worked in offices for years, a long period away from them will require time to readjust.
There are some ways to help combat this, such as making a list of all the things you enjoyed about the office so you can focus on the positives, like chatting with your colleagues or collaborating on projects.
Perhaps there’s also some lessons you learned when working from home that you want to bring into your new routine, such as going for a walk at lunch or making your own lunches, which can give you something to look forward to.
If you are feeling anxious while at work, don’t be afraid to take a moment to settle yourself. Head out for a coffee, talk to a colleague, or just go and sit in a quiet room until you are calmer. We’ve talked a lot about the importance of looking after your mental health during the pandemic, and none of that has changed just because you’re back in the office.
The main thing is to remember that some anxiety is normal, and by being kind to yourself through this time, you will hopefully get used to the change. Don’t be afraid either to speak to a GP or counsellor if you feel you are not coping.
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