Like it or loathe it the direction of pandemic travel appears to be a return to normality.
And most of us will agree that though vaccines seem to be doing a marvellous job at lessening the severity of COVID 19 in the UK, it’s really too early to tell whether we’re through the worst of this terrible pandemic.
But the news has been jam packed with articles both for and against moving workers in all industries back into an office environment and accountancy is one such sector.
So if you’re being asked to return to your office we’ve come up with a few pointers to lessen the stress.
First up, we suggest that you consider the source of any anxiety that a proposed return to the office is creating for you. We’ve split this article in to two parts with advice for what we consider to be the two main sources of return to work anxiety.
COVID 19 fear
You’re still well within your rights to be suffering from high levels of health anxiety. Just because half of the population is thrilled to be skipping back into nightclubs and ditching the face masks does not mean you have to feel the same way!
Returning to an office based environment can trigger all sorts of panic for people who might be vulnerable from a health perspective or maybe live with others who are. Or it might just be that the trauma of living through the last 18 months has left you feeling really germ phobic – not something to be ashamed of and you are not alone!
If you’re suffering with health anxiety then we firmly suggest that you let your managers know in advance of returning to work. With a bit of luck compassionate employers will be ready to hear this and will have lots they can share with you about what they have done to keep your workplace safe. They should be open to you continuing to wear a mask if it makes you feel comfortable and they will be able to consider what extra efforts they can go to to ensure you feel safe at work.
Things you might request would be:
- Open air meetings whenever possible
- Screens between desks
- Enhanced ventilation
- Staggered working hours
- A hybrid model where staff work from home and come into the office
- Enhanced cleaning and handwashing facilities
There’s plenty you can do to help reduce your levels of anxiety in the office too. Have a good think about what has worked before to help you feel calmer. Can you use your commuting time to reduce your stress levels and ensure you’re in a great mental place when you walk through the doors. Could you practice deep breathing on the drive in or listen to a meditation of the Headspace app on your journey on the bus, train or tube. If you can walk to work – even better as exercise always helps soothe the feeling of panic.
Stress caused by frustration
The other common cause of return to work stress is usually created by an anger or resentment accountants feel towards their employers.
Perhaps the last eighteen months has seen (in your opinion) really positive change when it comes to work life balance and flexibility at work and you’re frustrated that your firm doesn’t see that those changes are worth holding on to.
Perhaps you’re really reluctant to be dragged back to old ways of working and don’t want to let go of a new way of life that you’ve gladly adapted to.
You’re also not alone!
In this instance we suggest that you channel your stress into action and first up take considered steps to show your employer why you think the recall to the office isn’t the right decision. Keep it professional. Managing conflict is hard but most employers should respond well to an informal chat or perhaps a more formal letter. If you need to step things up a notch you might consider making a formal request for flexible working (a process for which you can find best practice at this helpful ACAS page) or raising a grievance.
You might also want to get an idea of how your colleagues are feeling about being recalled to the office. We’re not by any means suggesting you lead a mutiny here but there’s definitely power in numbers and if your employer receives requests from many to work from home, they may be more likely to consider a change.
And if your request is met with a firm no you’ll need to consider whether the stress of this change is something you’re prepared to manage and adapt to. For many of you the answer will be no and if that’s the case we’re delighted to reassure you that there are plentiful accountancy firms who have managed to adapt their systems of working and are offering their staff the opportunity to work from anywhere, work from home or to work on a hybrid model of a little bit of home working paired with some office presence.
So if you find the stress caused to you by either health anxiety or a return to the office sense of frustration, don’t hesitate to get in touch today. We guarantee absolute confidentiality and would love the opportunity to pair you with a firm that values your talent regardless of where it’s offered! Email us today!