Returning To Work: Managing Your Anxiety

2nd September 2020

More than two-fifths of UK workers are anxious about the prospect of returning to the workplace following the coronavirus outbreak according to a CIPD survey conducted in May.

The poll of 1,000 working adults, conducted by YouGov for the CIPD, found that 44% reported feeling anxious about the prospect of going back to work because of the health risks posed by Covid-19 to them and those close to them.

The survey also revealed that 31% of workers were anxious about commuting to work. This figure jumped to 52% in London, where commutes are often longer. 61% of respondents to an Ipsos MORI survey said they wouldn’t be comfortable about using public transport either.

So, what can we do to manage anxiety in a post-lockdown world?


hero Wellbeing Coach Vicky says, “At the start of lockdown we had to create a new routine so we could adapt to the changes during the pandemic. Feeling comfortable with this change might have taken days, or possibly weeks, and this is no different in this instance. Take your time to plan a routine again that works for you and that you feel comfortable and safe with.”

Here are some key factors to consider:

  • Your commute to and from work: if you need to travel via public transport, try choosing public transport that isn’t in ‘rush hour’ to avoid large quantities of people. Cycle or walking to work if possible. 
  • Your working environment: do you feel satisfied that you’re able to keep your distance from others working around you? 
  • Personal hygiene throughout the working day: use hand sanitiser, try avoiding touching your face, wash your hands regularly throughout the day and wear PPE if provided. 

What Else Can Your Do To Reduce Anxiety When Returning To Work?

Get informed

What measures has your workplace taken to ensure that guidelines are adhered to? Sometimes the biggest impact on anxiety levels can be that feeling of not knowing what to expect. Find out what measures are in place, it may reassure you and reduce feelings of worry and anxiety.

Flexible working

If travelling via public transport is causing you increased anxiety levels, speak to your manager about flexible working options. Whether it’s working from home, travelling at off-peak times when transport may be quieter, using a cycle to work scheme to avoid transport, phased returns or exploring options specific to your circumstances.


If you feel comfortable you can speak to your manager – don’t suffer in silence as your manager may be able to help with implementing a number of things to support you. Alternatively, if you have a colleague you feel you can chat to, share your thoughts and feelings as it can often help just to be able to share how you feel. 

Support your overall wellbeing

By supporting your physical and mental health, this can impact your anxiety levels too. Wellbeing Coach Vicky recommends sleeping 7-9 hours per night, limiting caffeine and alcohol, being physically active every day, practicing relaxation and mindfulness, eating balanced nutritious meals and taking time out when you need it. All of these things will contribute towards your overall wellbeing.

Breathing techniques to reduce the symptoms of anxiety

Symptoms of anxiety can include (but are not limited to) feeling restless or tense, increased heart rate, breathing rapidly, sweating, being unable to concentrate on one particular thing. To reduce some of the physical symptoms, breathing exercises can often help. Try focusing on your breathing, and making your exhales longer than your inhales. You could start by breathing in for a count of 4 and breathing out for 6, and gradually work up to breathing in for 8 and breathing out for 12 counts. Repeat this at least 5 times, and feel your heart rate lower and your muscles release tension.

Positive mindset

In their book, Words Can Change Your Brain, Andrew Newberg, M.D., and Mark Robert Waldman write that “a single word has the power to influence the expression of genes that regulate physical and emotional stress.” Being mindful of the language we use in self-talk and when talking to others can impact how we think and feel about situations. Positive talk does not change the situation, but it can put things into a healthier perspective and increase your resilience. For example, ‘I have to work’ versus ‘I get to work’ can help to reframe a situation.

Set yourself up for success

Start to implement your new routine now. Waking up at an appropriate time, getting showered, dressed and ready for the day. If self care standards have started to slip, reintroduce fresh ones. This might include limiting alcohol intake to the weekend, reducing the amount of sugary snacks to treat days only, and implementing relaxation techniques to unwind at the end of the day. Try to organise your week ahead, prioritise certain tasks, and allow yourself to be one step head. Don’t waste energy worrying about what’s not happened, and if it doesn’t go exactly as planned, give yourself a break. Just remember we are all in it together!

Looking for more support for your wellbeing and the wellbeing of your team? Get in touch below.


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