Of course, a return to the office means a return to the dreaded commute. Forget walking peacefully from your bed to your desk with a cup of tea in hand, and prepare for the return to incessant traffic jams and crowded journeys on the train where you can’t even open your newspaper without nudging your fellow commuter. It is more than understandable that many people are anxious about the return of this routine: 22% of people surveyed by Ezra said that the revival of the commute was the biggest source of dread in their return to the office. These feelings are legitimate, as there is evidence to suggest that the daily commute negatively affects one’s sleep and ability to socialise, as well as increasing stress levels. In fact, out of 2,000 surveyed UK workers, over two in five of them said that their work commutes cause increased levels of stress. All three of these factors are considerable factors in the state of our mental health, and therefore should not be ignored. It is important to remember that all those people stuck in the traffic jam with you, or brushing elbows with you on the Tube, are quite literally in the same boat—or at the very least, on the same train.
To echo the point above, one solution could be to reinvent your daily commute so that it incorporates daily exercise—by switching your car for your bike, not only are you removing negative mental impacts by taking away the stress of the journey, but you are also redefining your commute as a positive mental practice in itself—an excuse for daily exercise! Unfortunately, though, this is not possible for everyone.
Alternatively, you could be open with your manager and explain how stressful your daily commute has become, and perhaps discuss a working week which incorporates both working from home as well as in the office—and as we have established, you would not be alone in this request. Your mental wellbeing is pivotal, not only to you but also to your productivity at work, and your boss should understand and be willing to accommodate this. Besides, sometimes a problem shared really is a problem halved, and with so many of us suffering the same anxieties, it may be that your supervisor relates to your concerns and is more than willing to help.
Stresses related to COVID-19
With the return to the office post-pandemic, an obvious cause of stress is the variety of issues relating to Coronavirus, and what returning to a social workplace will mean in this regard. A massive 60% of surveyed workers said they are worried about going back to the office before everyone is vaccinated, and 64% of UK workers said that they don’t believe that anyone should go back to an office until everyone is vaccinated. With the return to the “new normal” after a year of unprecedented stress surrounding COVID-19, people’s mental health is bound to be affected. As with many of these issues, one of the best ways to combat this stress could be to talk to your supervisor, or your office community at large, to voice these concerns openly.
There is a myriad of reasons why the return to the office is proving stressful for many people. Our mental health is crucial all year round, but World Mental Health Day provides us with a great opportunity to prioritise and vocalise it, to come together and support one another. With this in mind, remember that if you are stressed about this transition, you are far from isolated, and you should never feel that you cannot seek support or advice. We all need to be heard, and we all should make our mental wellbeing a priority—whatever the circumstances.
Head to our Instagram and LinkedIn pages for more content surrounding World Mental Health Day this week, and if you are struggling with the return to the office, or with your mental health more generally, the below organisations are available to contact to help or offer further information.
Mind – Mind are a UK-based mental health charity who offer advice and support to anyone experiencing a mental health problem. Contact their helpline on 0300 123 3393, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit their website for more information.
ACAS – for issues specifically related to the workplace, ACAS offer free impartial advice on employment rights, best practice and policies and resolving workplace conflict. Contact their helpline on 0300 123 1100 or visit their website for more information.
BEAT – BEAT is the UK’s leading eating disorder charity. If you are concerned about your relationship with food, contact their helpline on 0808 801 6770, email email@example.com or visit their website for more information.
Samaritans – If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts, contact the Samaritans on 116 123 or visit their website for more information.
The Survivors Trust – If you have suffered sexual harassment at work, then contact The Survivors Trust for support on 08088 010818 or visit their website for more information.
Hub of Hope – if none of these organisations seem to be the right fit, visit the Hub of Hope, the UK’s leading mental health support database, to find the right mental health organisation for you.