51% of Brits anxious and concerned about the return to work

Almost exactly one year ago, Boris Johnson announced the UK’s first national lockdown. Since then, there has been a mass exodus from London, with 22% of Londoners migrating away, while 26% have still not returned. Having fast adapted to only virtual social interactions with colleagues and a year-long break in our usual 9-5 routine, how easily will workers adapt back into their pre-COVID professional life after the trauma of the past year?

The UK has never before dealt with such a seismic shift in the everyday. And most of us have spent the last year prioritising our health, and the health of our loved ones, over anything else. Nevertheless, as lockdown begins to lift, the pressure to return to the office feels imminent.

Anxieties surrounding this is currently widespread. With 51% of Brits anxious and concerned about the difficulties they will face when resuming and searching for post-pandemic work. This worry is even more prominent in young people, with 35% suffering from the worst mental health challenges regarding returning to work post-pandemic.

This is also being felt amongst freelancers, who have struggled with isolation, lack of job security and lack of government support schemes throughout the pandemic. In fact, half of all UK freelancers are planning to quit freelancing permanently. This is in addition to the 700,000 freelancers who already have.

The return to work and the past year intertwines with a debilitating sense of anxiety and fear. How are workers expected to return to work and perform after what we’ve all been through?

Avalyn Kasahara, Membership Director at Future Strategy Club, offers advice and tips for anxious about the return to work:

“Johnson’s roadmap understandably focuses on the re-opening of schools and allowing safe outdoor socialising, but many people are justifiably concerned and anxious around what it means for work and jobs going forward. Our data shows that there has been a seismic shift in London’s demographics, with huge proportions of office workers migrating out of London for the pandemic, and raising concerns about their future – however, there are still things you can do.

Set a networking strategy. Think about what you’d like to achieve through networking and then use this to consider where best you might be able to meet people who can support you in achieving those goals. Even before the pandemic, collectives of like-minded individuals were coming together around shared goals, passions and causes, and this has only developed further during 2020. Whether it is a specialism based collective focused on the breaking trends in your area, or a sustainability-based collective looking at best practices or, like FSC, a collective based around personal and career growth, there are a lot of options to be involved in.

Consider your current network and those that you have worked with that you admire. It could be worth reaching out to them personally to see whether you could set up a monthly mentorship session. This goes both ways; many senior leaders are looking to pick up their mentorship. Adding to that, make sure you’re utilising the digital tools available. Use LinkedIn to discover what people are doing, attend webinars, or reach out to someone for a virtual coffee.”

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