How to Mentally Prepare for Returning to Work
As of early July, 9.1 million people were furloughed under the UK government’s job retention scheme, while countless more people plugged away at their work from home, propped up on the kitchen table while the kids ran riot around them. Luckily the gradual easing of lockdown measures has meant that the nation is collectively returning to work again, and the ‘normality’ we left behind three months ago.
It’s an odd feeling. For many of us, the last time we were away from work for this long was when we were back at school. It can be a jarring transition, which is why we asked wellbeing coach and sabbatical specialist Lyndall Farley for her advice on the steps to follow in your first few weeks and months back to ensure a smooth transition back to working life.
Before you return
The most important thing to do before you return to work is to spend some time reflecting on your break and what has changed for you. Think about the following questions:
- Looking back to the person you were before your break, what’s changed in how you see yourself, your life, the world?
- What is a priority for you now? How will you keep this in focus when you return?
- What life changes or new behaviours do you want to keep or let go of?
In your first week
- Understand what’s changed: Gather information about what has changed in the business while you were away including changes to the business strategy, your team, your role and apply a flexible mindset to adjust to these changes.
- Set boundaries: What you feel is important for you and your life may have shifted while you’ve been away. Set boundaries with work that allow you to live a balanced, happy life, while also fulfilling your responsibilities at work.
- Check in with your boss/manager: ask about how you can help the business in your role and how any changes may affect you. Also discuss your boundaries and what you’d like to achieve in your role or career going forward.
In your first month
- Connect with people: Make contact with the people who are important to you at work. Celebrate your return with colleagues who you share a close relationship with. Let them know what’s changed for you and what’s important for you now.
- Look after your wellbeing: Keep a close eye on your physical, emotional and mental wellbeing and make sure you build in enough time for you to recharge from work stress and fatigue. Apply the Recharge Model to get the most recharge value out of your non-work time. The recharge model sets out four principles for ensuring your free time is well spent when you’re not working. These include your level of relaxation, control over your free time schedule, nourishing your body and mind through good nutrition and completely disconnecting from work (step away from the laptop!).
- Get support: Build a network of people around you that will support your priorities, goals and boundaries. These people may a combination of family, friends, colleagues, a partner. Ask for their support to help you stay focused on what’s important to you. Consider hiring a coach to help you with this for some extra accountability and support.
Lyndall Farley is the founder of sabbatical coaching program Beyond A Break which helps people and companies thrive using the power of time off to boost wellbeing. Lyndall has taken 10 sabbaticals and now helps people navigate the logistical and emotional process of taking a break from work themselves.