So, lockdown across the UK is easing. We can eat and drink indoors, make plans to reconnect, and put hugs back on the agenda. It also means that soon enough most of us can go back into the office more frequently. I should be excited right? But I’m not feeling the rush to return to the ‘real-world’ of work. So, why not?
The thing is, after an initial adjustment period following the start of full-time, remote working last March, I’ve come to realise that a lot of “lockdown living” actually suits me. In regards to my job, my home office is a lot quieter than an open plan office and I can happily wear my headphones all day and listen to music without worrying about appearing anti-social. I am not distracted by people talking near me or walking around the office. As someone who often suffers from mild social anxiety, many of the typical triggers are no longer present as I’m by myself at home, my sanctuary. Working from home allows me to be more selective with my interpersonal interactions and gives me time to mentally prepare and decompress before and after such interactions.
On a personal note, I no longer felt the need to make excuses for not going out and meeting others. It felt good to say that I’ll be staying in over the weekend and not to feel judged, because other people were doing the same. Taking all of this into account, the thought of going back to the office and the ‘real-world’ of work makes me feel a little uneasy.
The challenges of remote onboarding
I do recognise that there are times when in-office working would be better. And dare I say, I actually feel I need it at times. As I joined Dayshape in November 2020, I was onboarded remotely. This was a first for me and I wasn’t really sure what to expect but I was pleased to see that Dayshape had really thought about their onboarding and induction process and I felt looked after throughout. I had video calls with people from every department in the first week and everyone was welcoming and easy to talk to.
It has to be said that I do feel I would have progressed in my learning faster if I had been onboarded in-office rather than remotely. For example, if I was stuck on something, I could have just shouted over to someone in the office and pointed at my screen, whereas when working remotely, I have to schedule a video call. You also miss out on those spontaneous discussions that occur about the work people are doing and as someone who is still learning about the product and processes, it can really be beneficial to be a part of these.
When social anxiety and forced fun collide
I alluded earlier to my social anxiety, so when job hunting, it was really important for me to get a sense of the culture of the company I’m applying to. I needed to find out if I would fit in and be allowed to be myself. This was more important to me than the salary and other perks. Here at Dayshape, we have monthly social events and normally upon hearing that, I’d run a mile. There’s not a lot worse than ‘forced fun’ to someone like me.
However, I have found that I’ve really enjoyed the social events here are Dayshape. We’ve had to be more creative given that everyone is working remotely but the events have been well thought out and considered. Think virtual magic shows, pizza making, horse racing, and when government guidance permitted, group walks and scavenger hunts. There are usually options for remote and in-person activities which ensures the opportunity for everyone to be involved. It feels really inclusive. I’ve never worked for a company that goes to this much effort to accommodate as many people as possible when it comes to social events. From previous experience, it’s usually just a few drinks after work on Friday which doesn’t suit everyone.
A flexible solution to the best of both worlds
While many of my colleagues are absolutely feeling the rush to return to office life, opening up has allowed me to see others share a natural apprehension. Stepping back to assess my feelings has also put me in a better position to have an open and honest discussion with my line manager. This conversation allowed me to find out more about the support available to me, such as the counseling support Dayshape provides through an Employee Assistance Program. Also helpful is a daily reminder that it’s okay to feel the way I do, that my feelings are valid, and will be heard. I feel reassured knowing that I’m working for an inclusive employer that really does care about its employees’ wellbeing.
Like many, I’ve come to realise that if possible, I’d rather be neither 100% in-office nor remote. My hope is that once more normality has been restored, that I can have a flexible working pattern that works for both myself and my team, allowing me the best of both worlds. Although I still feel reluctant about being thrust back into the ‘real-world,’ I know I’ll have the support to make the transition when the time comes. I also know that I’m not alone in feeling the way I do and whatever you feel, neither are you.
Looking for advice on how to cope with anxiety about coming out of lockdown? Every Mind Matters provides some guidance on taking care of your mental health as things change.