It is going to be a few weeks of adjustment until we are back to full speed and our message is to be patient and gentle with each other as we restart, re-boot and emerge back into the world of work after months at home.
Feelings of anxiety are going to be part of the first weeks. In fact, many things may cause anxiety during and in the aftermath of a pandemic and you may find yourself feeling down, anxious, panicked, tired or overwhelmed. If you are anxious about returning to work and adapting to this new way of life, rest assured that this anxiety is entirely normal. It is so commonplace in fact, that there is a term for it: re-entry anxiety.
Mistakes will be made by ourselves, our managers and colleagues and the best we can do is be patient and understanding. We need to remember that moving from a long time in isolation to putting on a show for customers is going to involve some errors and a big effort from everyone.
We are delighted to see Hospitality Action https://www.hospitalityaction.org.uk also talking about how you can minimise any negative effects on your wellbeing and what you can do to make the transition back into work as stress-free as possible.
Consider your commute: Can you alter your commute to minimise your time on public transport? Many of us are feeling anxious about returning to public transport - a busy, closed place. If you are able to walk or cycle to your workplace this may be a better alternative. If you must use public transport, try altering your route to minimise the number of changes you need to make, also consider getting on or off a stop or a few early to lessen your time on the service. It may be useful to see if you can change your work pattern to avoid rush hour.
Take hygiene measures: Ensure you keep up good levels of personal hygiene, especially after having been on public transport or before interacting with customers. Regularly wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with warm water and make sure your hands are properly dry afterwards. You should always carry some antibacterial gel for when you cannot get to a sink. Keep a packet of antibacterial wipes so that you can regularly wipe down your work area. Make sure you have a face covering (and a spare), if you have a reusable facemask make sure it's clean and dry before using it. Disposable face coverings should be regularly replaced, especially if they get damp. Keeping up these kind of measures is one of the most effective things you can do to keep yourself and others safe.
Learn some calming techniques: Unfortunately, it is very likely many of us will undergo periods of anxiety once we return to work. You may feel overwhelmed, tired or even a little frightened as we re-adjust to life after lockdown. An excellent calming technique that you can do anywhere is simply to breathe. A simple breathing method to use when you are feeling overwhelmed is box breathing. Make sure you are sitting comfortably and upright. Breathe in for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, exhale for 4 seconds, and hold for 4 seconds. Repeat this until you feel calmed.
Acknowledge how you are feeling: It is important that you work out what is causing you discomfort so that you can begin to address these issues. Whenever you are feeling anxious, it may be useful to jot down what sparked this response. For example, maybe it is the influx of a large group of guests or an unexpected spill or breakage that requires dealing with that is making you anxious. This focus will allow you to seek advice on dealing with specific aspects of your anxiety, making them easier to address. Learning your particular anxieties and expressing them can also be a great tool on its own in helping you manage them. Talk with your employer. Your employer should be transparent with you regarding the transition back to ‘normal’ and you should express any concerns you have. Let them know if you are anxious about your commute, or not sure how you will distance in your usually crowded workplace, ask them if it possible for you to change your shift times or perhaps continue working at home if you can. It is always important to air any concerns or questions you have. Your employer cannot make the changes needed to support you if they are not aware of them.