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Your return-to-work pandemic plan

September 25, 2020

 

As lockdown restrictions continue to ease, many of us are returning to an adapted form of the “new new normal” – the “new old normal”, if you will.

While the adjustment into Level 5 Lockdown back in March was a shock, many of us became comfortable with some of the benefits of lockdown – what’s not to love about saving money, spending time with family and skipping traffic?

Now that the country is opening up, it’s normal to feel a bit anxious about going back into the world. In fact, it’s so common there’s a term for it: re-entry anxiety.

To help ease the transition, we’ve collected some of the top tips from around the internet.

Driving change

From loading taxis to individual drivers left unsure of how many people are allowed in their cars, the issue of transport has been a hot topic in South Africa since the beginning of lockdown.

Sara Davison, a British NLP Master Practitioner and author writes, “The idea of boarding public transport… where we are not in control of social distancing nor has it been effectively enforced, is enough to send us over the edge and into panic attack territory.”

For those who don’t take public transport but are still stressed about traffic, business psychologist Jivan Dempsey warns that you may have a shorter fuse than before. Lockdown has made us all used to having our own space, and traffic is the opposite of that – in fact, research shows that even in “normal times” it has a negative effect on well-being that stems from the sense of helplessness we feel in traffic.

Whichever way you commute, here are a few tips to transition:

  • Put on a podcast or playlist that helps relax you.
  • Use the commute to read or meditate instead of browsing social media or responding to work emails (this only applies to those taking public transport, of course).
  • The gloriously empty streets are long gone, and commuters should prepare for traffic. Worrying about being late will only add to your stress.
  • Keep an extra mask in your car – there’s nothing less enjoyable than having to do a U-turn to rush back home in 8AM traffic.

The school run

Dropping your kids off at school is probably the most stressful it’s ever been – especially if your kids are too young to fully understand what’s going on.

The South African Department of Health has four tips to talking to your kids about the pandemic:

  • Validate – ask them about their day and listen intently. Don’t invalidate their feelings by telling them there’s nothing to worry about.
  • Respond – when your kids speak, acknowledge what they’re saying.
  • Reassure – let them know you’re there for them, and that it’s okay to feel scared or confused.
  • Reiterate – keep reminding them that you’re always available to talk about any fears or concerns they have.

If you’re concerned about whether your kids’ school is following safety protocols, remember that it’s your right and responsibility as a parent to be informed. Start a WhatsApp group with other parents or speak to their teachers to put your mind at ease.

New ways of working

Most of the things workers enjoyed about a communal environment – coffee breaks with colleagues, leftover boardroom snacks, Friday drinks – will be changed, if they’re still there at all.

Your working environment will likely look very different to the one you left, with smaller meetings, spread-out seating and possibly even physical barriers.

Here are a few tips for working in the ‘new old normal’:

  • Find out if you can work remotely or flexibly. This will ease anxiety about being in a full office and allow you to transition at your own pace.
  • Permanently remote workers may benefit from a co-working space, especially if you’re outgoing and like having people to talk to.
  • Research shows that video calls are psychologically demanding and can be counterproductive. Conference call with voice-only and try limit the frequency and length of meetings.

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