The Return To Work Would possibly Not Look As You’d Hoped

After more than a year of working from home, thousands are likely to return to physical work in some way in the months to come. But for many it is difficult to grapple with what the return to work will look like.

When the lockdown was first announced, the move to a work from home model was a disruption for many people – “it was uncomfortable and didn’t feel quite right,” says Dr. Teralyn Sell, psychotherapist and brain health expert, told HuffPost UK. Over time, people began to see the benefits: extra time with family, no commuting, home cooked lunches, and avoidance of the stress of office politics. But now some have to get back on track right away.

Dr. Sell ​​compares the whole ordeal to frogs in a pot of boiling water. “As frogs, we felt pretty good because the water boiled slowly over time,” says the therapist, referring to our work habits before Covid. “What we didn’t know was when we got out of the water, it felt really good. Now we are asked to voluntarily jump back into a pot that is already boiling. “

The problem is that there is no one size fits all approach to big return. People want different things. And what they want – and what their employer wants – may not always match. Some employees want a hybrid model that divides their time between office and home. Others want to work from home full-time while others just want to be in the office all the time. And companies can’t please everyone.

What does office work look like after the “unlockdown”? University of Manchester occupational psychologist Professor Cary Cooper and co-editor of Flexible Work believes hybrid working is the future – and this confirms it.

According to a survey by TalkTalk, most (85%) business leaders expect to do hybrid work once restrictions are lifted, and 86% of office workers say flexible labor is key to finding a new job in the future.

We want the office to become a place where people can attend important meetings or collaborate on tasks while they check off the rest of their to-do lists from home. The optimal time to spend in the office seems to be two to three days a week for both employers and employees.

But for any company that sends out employee surveys to listen to their employees and plan a flexible future, there are a dozen others who simply say it’s time to go back. And that’s scary.

A survey conducted by intranet software company Oak Engage of more than 2,000 people found that 45% of those returning to work suffer from anxiety. Two-thirds said UK companies should give workers the choice of working from home or in the office, with 41% saying it would improve mental health.

So how can we make peace with going back to work and the fact that this may not be what we were hoping for?

Ask yourself the big three

Dr. Sell ​​suggests that in order to move forward we need to ask ourselves three questions: What can we do to accept what is happening now? What do we need to change? And what do we have to leave behind? Asking questions – and really questioning your feelings about getting back to work – can help you understand what needs to happen … including whether it is time to find a new job.

“You may have to move to an office again, but you don’t want that,” says Dr. Sell. “It could be time to do this self-evaluation, to accept it, to change it or to leave it. Wonder why you don’t wanna go back Do not disregard these reasons as they are not confirming your own emotions.

“Instead, see how your body feels, perceive your thoughts, and develop a strategy to either work from home or perhaps find a new job that you are more comfortable with.”

Some people may want to go back to the office, but their employer wants them to stay home – the same questions still apply. “Ask yourself what didn’t work for you in the office. Maybe there will be some changes there too, ”she adds.

Talk to your boss

Communication with your boss will be very important over the next few months, says Prof. Cooper. Especially for those who are not returning yet as you have the opportunity to customize what it will look like. “The ideal case is that line managers and HR work with each individual to find and coordinate the best solution for themselves and the organization,” says Prof. Cooper.

If the situation does not arise where you can complete a survey on your return preferences, speak to your manager or HR about what would be comfortable for you or whether you could make your working day more flexible, as you have demonstrated the ability over the past year to work hard – and flexibly -.

“The worst organizational response would be to require everyone to return to their physical office – as some major investment bankers have requested – or to work remotely even though they have inappropriately space at home or have social or developmental needs on most Days out of the office, ”says Prof. Cooper. “It’s about developing a psychological contract between the individual employee and the organization.”

The Oak Engage survey found that a third of people said they would look for another job if they had to return to work permanently, while 23% said they would consider leaving or quitting .

If companies want to retain talent, they have to listen.

Think about what you can control

Before returning to work at the IRL, Beverley Hills, therapist and counseling directory member, recommends asking yourself action questions that begin with “what” or “how” rather than “why”, “who” or “when”. So instead of asking yourself, “Why can’t it be the same?” Or “Who will help me?” – that Hills says are “disempowering” and put you in victim mode – try, “What do I need to do to make my own transition easier?” Or ‘How can I make this work for me?’

“You know yourself better than anyone, so only you have the solution to your own problems,” she says. “The ‘what’ or ‘how’ can be incredibly motivating and allow us to take responsibility for ourselves.”

Hills says it’s important to deal with expectations and understand that old ways of life may need to change. It’s also about focusing on what you can now control.

For example, if you’re worried about getting to work, you could do a few dummy runs of your trip to see what the conditions are like at certain times of the day, she suggests. If it’s too much, speak to your manager to see if you can change the working hours so you can come later or leave earlier.

Even if you’ve been told hybrid working is the future of your business, but you hate working from your sofa, it may be time to invest in a desk. Or at least a few accessories that could make WFH a little more comfortable.

Whatever the case, when you’re struggling with fear of going back to work, your body is telling you something. “You may find yourself reaching out to a career counselor or therapist to help you make these decisions,” says Dr. Sell. “You might be glad you did.”

Useful websites and hotlines

understanding, open Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. 0300 123 3393.

Samaritan offers a listening service that is open around the clock 116 123 (UK and ROI – this number is FREE to call and will not appear on your phone bill).

QUIET (the campaign against living in misery) offer a hotline that is open 365 days a year from 5:00 p.m. to 12:00 p.m. 0800 58 58 58, and a web chat service.

The mixture is a free support service for anyone under 25. Call 0808 808 4994 or email

Rethink mental illness offers practical help with his advice hotline on 0808 801 0525 (Monday to Friday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.). Visit for more information.

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