With the ongoing easing of restrictions comes a significant step – a return to the office. After more than a year of working from home, how are office workers feeling about transitioning back to a face-to-face working environment?
The changes and uncertainty brought by the pandemic have had an impact on many people’s mental health. Office workers have had to adjust from working in an office environment to working and interacting almost exclusively through a screen. With restrictions easing, many professionals are feeling anxious about the re-adjustment to pre-Covid working conditions.
We gathered data from office workers about how they feel about returning to the office. Here’s what we found.
How do professionals feel about going back to the office?
We compiled consumer research of 500 people who worked in UK offices before Covid-19 and are planning to go back. This has revealed how apprehensive people are about returning to their usual working environment.
Of those surveyed:
– 39% are nervous about being in an office environment around other people once again.
– 40% are nervous about having to attend face-to-face meetings again.
– 40% are nervous about presenting to people in a professional environment again (including leading meetings, presentations, client pitches, internal pitches and speaking at conferences).
Advice from the experts
Two of VBQ’s expert speakers have shared their tips for navigating our anxieties in the new office environment as we ease out of the pandemic.
Viv Groskop is an award-winning comedian and author, and host of chart-topping public speaking podcast, ‘How to Own the Room’. In the corporate sector, she is an executive performance coach, specialising in training senior women for advanced leadership roles.
Viv says: “I’m seeing an avalanche of angst about returning to face-to-face life. The anxiety cuts across all demographics, regardless of industry and seniority. We’ve all just about got used to using digital platforms and “owning the Zoom” and now we’re supposed to ease back into… what? No-one seems to quite know what this new “hybrid working” is going to look like. The best advice is for this to be an official, no-holds-barred, open dialogue. Ask people what they want. Don’t assume anything. Use trial periods with plenty of opportunity to give feedback. Expect it to be bumpy and messy. Be flexible about how meetings happen and be guided by what people feel comfortable with — not by what you think everyone “should” be doing. It’s not going to be “normal” (whatever that is) so why pretend?”
“Be flexible about how meetings happen and be guided by what people feel comfortable with — not by what you think everyone “should” be doing.”
“Whatever you’re feeling at the time, step into that office, into the spotlight, into the work space and do it. If you feel fear – it will evaporate after a few seconds, if not after a few seconds after a few minutes.”
Esther Stanhope, impact guru, speaker and author of award winning book Goodbye Glossophobia – Banish Your Fear of Public Speaking, knows all about facing fear of presenting in-person.
She says that a great way to project confidence when presenting face-to-face is: “Feel the fear and do it anyway (like the Susan Jeffers book title). I used to be a nervous speaker, I used to dread standing up in front of an audience with all the eyes on me.”
“Our brains go into flight, flight or flee mode and we get flustered and start sweating or stuttering. It’s ok. That’s normal. My big tip is to stand tall, head held high, breathe out (yes through the mouth slowly) and then in through the nose – “Blow out the candle and smell the roses” is the mantra. This reduces cortisol (the stress hormone) then….dun dun duuuuuun….smile, go for it. Whatever you’re feeling at the time, step into that office, into the spotlight, into the work space and do it. If you feel fear – it will evaporate after a few seconds, if not after a few seconds after a few minutes. Having been a former glossophobic (that’s the fear of public speaking) I know what works when it comes to combating anxiety and oozing confidence. Stand tall, smile, feel the fear and do it anyway…..repeat. You’ll be fine. Eyes and teeth!”
Further tips for combating post pandemic nerves
It can feel stressful when things are changing. Whether you’re too anxious to leave your home or you’re just feeling nervous about going back to a previous routine.
Mind recommend the following to help support you through this adjustment period:
- Get practical support from organisations who can help
- Talk to someone you trust
- Give yourself time to process
- Control what you can
- Practice self care
Consumer research was carried out by OnePoll between 13.05.2021 – 17.05.2021 of 500 UK office workers (before Covid-19) and are planning to go/are already back to the office.