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Return to Work

Just as you were asked to adjust to working from home, you may now need to prepare to re-adjust to returning to work in the office.

Since the outbreak of COVID-19 and the subsequent adjustments to daily life, many of us have had to make significant changes in the way we work, live and interact with each other.

 As restrictions ease due to high vaccination rates and life begins to return to the “new normal” some of us will begin to return to the physical office or workplace.

For some of us, this may be a welcomed return that brings excitement, possibility and anticipation.

Others may feel neutral about this, and not feel impacted either way. And for some, returning to the workplace may bring up feelings of uncertainty, unease or concern.

Furthermore, some people have not only become accustomed to working from home but may have enjoyed it or found it allowed them to achieve goals and be productive in other areas of their life such as juggling family and other commitments.

Returning to working from the office will impact people in different ways and in varying capacities, just as it did when you were asked to work from home. The impacts of COVID-19 have left many people feeling a loss of control, choice and the inability to plan and prepare.

The return to the office is yet another change, and one you may also feel you have little choice in or feel apprehensive about. With change can come a range of feelings and if you are feeling uncertain or unsure about the return to the office, this is understandable.

  • Aspects of your work may have changed to comply with current restrictions.
  • You may have become used to working in your home alone and free from distractions, noise and incidental interactions with colleagues.
  • Be aware that there will likely be additional stimulation to your senses. Seeing and speaking with people regularly or additional noises from other colleagues talking or in meetings.
  • Yours or others heightened awareness or alertness to issues such as hygiene.
  • You or your colleagues may hold strong opinions about the pandemic and vaccinations. Strong opinions may be something new to navigate in the office environment.
  • Many people have created new routines while working from home and have adjusted to this new way of living. Returning to the office may change ways of planning, structure, and routine. At first, you may find it challenging to balance work/life commitments or to find a routine that works for you.
  • You might feel fatigued when you first return to the office. It might take you time to adjust and return to equilibrium. Be kind to yourself as you ease back into this way of working and allow yourself time to adjust to a new routine.
  • You or some of your colleagues may have lost loved ones during the pandemic or may still be separated from family or loved ones due to current travel restrictions and as such may be experiencing grief and loss.
  • Ask for the return to work plan from your manager or relevant staff about what protocols and precautions are in place to align with the current requirements.
  • Be respectful of other opinions and beliefs. Remaining respectful of difference and being open to alternative views will ensure you remain professional and adhere to your workplaces code of conduct.

    Whilst this may be challenging and bring up strong emotions in you, ensuring we are respectful and professional in our workplace is essential. Remind yourself of your workplaces policy around these issues and access additional support and guidance from your manager or appropriate staff member if required.

  • Show yourself and your peers compassion and patience as you return to the office and this way of working – allow yourself time to adjust.
  • Be prepared that it might not be a smooth transition and be kind to yourself as this is another big change.
  • If you used to plan and achieve a lot before work hours in the past, you might want to gradually reintroduce these activities as you return to the office. However, you might find that this routine no longer works for you.
  • Draw on your skills as you attempt to create a new routine and manage the impact of the return to the office, with its possible challenges and adjustments.

    Think about what has worked well for you both personally and professionally prior to working from home– did you set aside time the night before to prepare? Did you write a to-do list? Did you set up a meeting with a peer to problem solve the issue?

    You may find however that these strategies are no longer as effective for you, so it may take time to create new ones.

  • If possible, make a gradual return to the office that aligns with your own and your employers needs and requirements.
  • Consider and prepare for your new routine – what does your commute and travel look like? What will your regular and planned breaks be?

    Ensure you are still prioritising self-care strategies around this new routine, for example time with family, exercise or other activities.
  • Reach out to your manager or the relevant supports within or external to your organisation if you are struggling with this return and adjustment.


For Crisis Support contact Lifeline on 13 11 14, chat with us online at lifeline.org.au or text us on 0477 13 11 14. Lifeline services are available 24/7.

Returning to the office or other physical workplace is yet another significant change that may bring about a range of different feelings and emotions.

Below are some additional resources that may support your transition as we navigate the “new normal”.

  • Lifeline toolkits – download additional information for support on managing during this time. transition back to the “new normal”.
  • Workplace training – Lifeline offers a range of training programs to support mental health awareness and skills in the workplace.
  • Mental health in the workplace – a toolkit to support organisations and their leaders in promoting mental health and wellbeing in the workplace.
  • Beyond Blue – trained counsellors are available 24/7 on the Coronavirus Mental Wellbeing Support Service and webchat service. Online forums are also available to connect with others and share your experiences.
  • Black Dog Institute – view resources to manage anxiety and stress related to COVID-19.

If you are struggling or feeling overwhelmed, call Lifeline 24/7 on 13 11 14. You can also text us on 0477 13 11 14 or chat with us online.

For further and ongoing support please see your local GP or other health professional.

Mal's story

Mal has worked in some of the best restaurants in the world but the pressure, long hours, and the chaos started to take its toll on his mental health, leading to severe anxiety. Here, he shares how he got support and what has helped him on his journey.