Managing change – Feeling anxious about going back to the work place

One of the most overused phrases during this past year (apart from the word ‘unprecedented’ of course) has been or has been something similar to, ‘when all of this is over’.

And now, the prospect of it ‘all being over’ is becoming a reality. We’re not quite there yet but it won’t be long now. Woooooo hooooo, except… I’m hearing from clients some people are feeling anxious about returning to the workplace.

According to a recent Ipsus Mori Poll, 90% said home working is preferable to going to the office every day.

Nationwide did a poll of their employees and 57% said they wanted to work from home full time.

There are many reasons why people now prefer working from home. I also know many people are actually anxious about returning to work at the place they once worked and were comfortable working there.

I get it because I’ve been longing to get back to speaking in person at events and the thought of it had made me a tad anxious too for a short while.

Why this feeling of anxiousness? Because once again we’re experiencing change.

When we went in to the first lockdown we were all anxious because we didn’t know how we’d cope with working from home and a big chunk of us are now anxious about going back. Going back to ‘BC’ (Before Covid) I bet most of us were anxious about starting work at a new place of work. I wonder if you can remember feeling anxious when you started at your first day at school or the first day at a new school :O

We often feel anxious when we experience change whatever the change might be. And that’s ok, it’s human, it’s perfectly natural.

It’s not the actual change that we’re afraid of, usually it’s the uncertainty if we’ll be able to cope with it. We might wonder if we have the talent, resources or ability to do what’s necessary.

The short answer is yes we do. How do I know? Because we’ve managed many changes in our lives before reaching this moment in time.

So here are five ways to help with the transition. They can be applied any time we experience being anxious of change, but let’s focus on going back to the work place.

1) Breathe a breath or two

My favourite ‘go to’ basic tool. If we’re anxious we need to calm down and get grounded and the easiest way of doing that is to do some deep breathing. Here’s a link to the one I use (Overcoming Overwhelm).

2) Talk

Talk to your manager, boss, someone in HR, or someone in authority. Discuss what’s making you feel stressed and your feelings about it. See if you can agree a strategy to work through it. A strategy might entail building up your days at the workplace.

3) Be kind

Be kind to others and yourself but be kind to yourself first. When you’re kind and compassionate to yourself it radiates out to others.

4) Create a group

You are not alone, find someone you can confide in, better still form a group of 3, 4, 5 or 6 people and discuss how you’re feeling. At the very least buddy up with someone going through the same experience. Swap ideas how you can overcome this anxiousness. Be supportive to each other.

A bonus of having conversations with others is, it will break the stigma (if there is one) in the workplace.

5) Just say ‘no’

Easier said than done I know, but worth mentioning. We like to help people and we want to say ‘yes’ when asked to do something or are asked for help. But sometimes we just can’t as it can leave us feeling overwhelmed which can lead to burn out. If you think you’ve taken on too much you might consider speaking to a manager, explain how you’re feeling and ask for help to prioritise the work you have to do. Not everything is a priority, some things can wait.


Just a few tools to get you started.

If you have a tool, technique or insight to help overcome anxiety I’d love to hear it, email me at [email protected]

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