Returning to Work After Lockdown, By Author, Andry Anastasis McFarlane

Returning to work with a new resilience

As we start to return to work outside of home, there is an air of optimism. We still have change to handle, but life feels full of more positive possibilities. We’ve had a year of learning to be resilient to change and uncertainty. Now we can begin to talk about surviving and thriving this next stage of working life with a new type of resilience; a kinder, more sustainable approach to going back to our offices, shops and workplaces.

Stay with whatever you feel

The understanding of what it means to be resilient is slowly changing. Instead of toughening up to this huge change of working outside of home—and then burning-out later down the line—resilience is developing as a more humane approach.

For example, emotionally you may be feeling apprehensive, joyful, nervous or excited about being at work outside of home (I’ve had dozens of different thoughts and emotions about this upcoming shift). You may have had some, or little choice in the matter of where to work. Mindfulness teaches us it’s best to allow, accept and notice any stressful feelings, rather than ‘trying to be positive,’ fixing or controlling our feelings. We then create space to feel, rather than repressing stressful feelings about the return to work outside of home.

This isn’t the same as acting out, expressing emotions to everyone or even being passive! It’s mentally giving permission for our emotions. From that mindset, you may feel more relaxed, more resilient and make better workplace decisions too.

Work lifestyle

Times of chaos, change and uncertainty can sometimes offer opportunities for negotiating with employers. Many of us, myself included, are rewriting our ideas about preferred work lifestyles; from staggered starts to part-time WFH, it’s all  opening up for discussion now.

Need to have two days a week WFH? Want your employer to pay for a day a week in a co-working space so you don’t get isolated WFH? Build a business case for it, showing how you could be more efficient in your role too. Government guidance recommends that certain employers ‘should consult with their workers to determine who needs to come into the workplace’.[i] So, see if you can negotiate a work approach where you thrive, which suits the organisation and yourself.

Teamwork: deepening our listening skills

Listening is one of the most essential skill sets of our time. Otto Scharmer, Senior Lecturer of Massachusetts Institute of Technology also says it’s the most underrated leadership skill of our time. Mask-wearing or social distancing at work will continue to deeply affect how we communicate during face-to-face work. We will all need to be more much more attentive listeners. In my experience, a deeper type of listening with added empathy helps conversations go smoothly with colleagues and clients. As does occasionally slowing down the conversation and staying relaxed about the impact of misunderstandings. This thoughtful approach goes a long way towards helping easier communication and teamwork.

Career resilience

As we return to work outside of our homes, in this odd economic time, it’s worth bolstering your profile or CV and building your career resilience. Explore what training courses and qualifications you could attend and gain that would make you more successful in your role, or even more employable in other roles too.

Hopefully, with a supportive employer, you can access new learning and development relevant to your role. If not, consider financially investing in some workplace-related-learning outside of work. Last year, I studied for hour a day to learn new executive coaching skills, to make sure I was top of my game. At best, by developing your skills, you become a greater asset at work. And should you need to/choose to change job or career, you’ll be more career resilient and even more employable.

Andry Anastasis McFarlane is the author of The Really Resilient Guide

Andry Anastasis McFarlane is an experienced learning consultant, executive coach, international workshop facilitator and keynote speaker. The Learning Moment offers workshops, courses, executive coaching and learning consultancy within the UK. The Really Resilient Guide is Andry’s first book: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Really-Resilient-Guide-Surviving-Uncertainty/dp/B08F6PK2DH/

The rest of this editorial will be published in print at a later time.


[i] https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19/offices-and-contact-centres#offices-2-3