Back to Work Anxiety: Why You Have It and What You Can Do

Back to Work Anxiety: Why You Have It and What You Can Do

Woman stressed and anxious at work

How many times have you heard people talking about ‘getting back to normal’ after Covid?

For some of us, life might look and feel so different now. Months of fear and uncertainty have made people feel anxious about getting back to doing the things they used to do.

Going back to work is no exception.

It’s Mental Health Awareness Week this week.  In this blog, we’ll look at the effects of back to work anxiety and a lack of work/life balance on mental wellbeing.

Back to work anxiety-why you have it and what you can do

If you are just returning to work after a long period of furlough or working from home, you might feel anxious about going back. This could be because:

  • You’re worried about catching the virus: infection rates are falling, but it hasn’t gone away.
  • The idea of mixing with more people than you’ve seen in months makes you feel uneasy.
  • You don’t know what job and your workplace is going to look like when you go back.

What you can do about back to work anxiety

Feeling anxious in these circumstances is completely normal. Acknowledge that you feel this way, then try:

Reminding yourself that there are positive things about returning to work like:

  • Being able to catch up with work colleagues.
  • Getting back some separation between work and home life.
  • Actually having a proper daily routine again.

Talk to your manager about your concerns

If you feel anxious about going back to work, talk to your manager about it. Ask about any support they can offer you or any training that’s available if you feel like you need to brush up on certain skills. This can make you feel more relaxed and confident about being back at work. Don’t be hard on yourself though, don’t expect to feel ‘back to normal’ on your first day back.

Get clued up about changes in the workplace

Part of what might be making you feel anxious about going back to work is not knowing what to expect.  Find out what is going to be different in your workplace once you go back. Get clued up on the Covid secure measures and how your job or working pattern might be different. 

Return of the impostor syndrome

When you think about going back to work, do you have thoughts like:

‘Will I still even know how to do my job?’

‘I don’t know what I’m doing most of the time’

‘The company is laying people off, maybe they’ll finally find out I’m not that great at my job and they’ll fire me’

If so, you might just have impostor syndrome.

Impostor syndrome can make even experienced and talented people feel that they are a fraud who can’t do their job. This is stressful enough in normal times, but add a long lay off from work and changes to job role/responsibilities into the mix, and it can be harmful to mental health. 

If you have impostor syndrome: the good news

The silver lining is that discussions around wellbeing (mental and physical) are taking place a lot more often in the wake of Covid.

Admitting that you struggle with things like self-belief can be difficult, but try to confide in a trusted colleague or your manager for support and encouragement. Many people doubt their abilities for a million different reasons, so you’re not alone.

Thinking about your mindset around impostor syndrome can help too. Instead of allowing yourself to feel crushed over mistakes or failures at work, try to reframe them as opportunities to learn and grow.

If you feel impostor syndrome creeping up on you, have something to hand to give you that little lift you need. It could be a folder of emails praising you on your performance or kind words that a client has said. When you feel consumed by doubt, read them, and remember to be kinder to yourself.

The post-Covid world-reclaiming work/life balance

It will be interesting to see what happens to our work/life balance after Covid. Many people won’t want to return to the hour long commute and the 100mph lifestyle. Others long to get back to the office after struggling to manage home and family life while working remotely. Whichever camp you fall into, Covid has made us think about balance and what we want from work and life.  

Is remote working here to stay? Do you even still want to do the same job/pursue the same career? Do you want more flexibility in how and when you work?

We’ve all been asking ourselves these questions and one thing’s for certain, it’s no longer considered healthy or necessary to work around the clock.

Back to work anxiety- coping strategies

If you’ve got into unhealthy habits during your time away from work like being less active or drinking more alcohol, now is the time to bring the balance back.

Create a routine for yourself that includes healthy coping strategies to make you feel less anxious such as:

  • Practicing mindfulness-there are some great apps you can download.
  • Making time each day to do something relaxing, even if it’s just reading a book for 10 minutes.
  • Doing something active like going for a walk or doing some online yoga.
  • Getting back into a healthy sleep routine.
  • Eating a balanced diet and drinking plenty of water.
  • Cutting down on caffeine and alcohol-both can play havoc with your mood and energy levels.


Getting help for back to work anxiety

If your anxiety is affecting your daily life, contact your GP, or contact MIND or the Samaritans for help and advice. It’s also worth asking at work about what support is available.


Are you concerned about a colleague’s mental health or your own? Has the effects of the pandemic made you want to get more clued up on mental health in general?

Our online mental health courses can help you understand mental health conditions, start the conversation around mental health, and feel confident in helping someone who is suffering from poor mental health.

Face to face training is not possible at the moment, but we know that there’s going to be such a need for mental health training in the coming months.

Get in touch with us if you have any questions or need any more information about our courses.



Bridget Woodhead