Feeling unsure about returning to work?

Feeling unsure about returning to work?

Have you been working from home since lockdown? If so, it may seem a long time ago since you last went into the office. At first, you may have found it hard to adjust to working from home, and getting used to doing your work online. Many found it challenging to juggle family life and work, as they had additional tasks such as supporting children with their homeschooling.
It also took time to adjust being away from colleagues and friends. It no doubt took a lot of effort to manage the financial and health concerns, as well as the uncertainty, particulary as no one knew how things would unfold.

Returning to work

As the country starts to ease lockdown so that we can all go out to shop or activities in public places safely, organisations are preparing their workspaces so that we can return to work safely. However, despite the safety measures, many are concerned about returning to work because of the risk of contagion. But there is another concern too, many have got used to their home environment and wonder what it will be like to be around a lot of people again.

Some have had difficulties being productive, as it was difficult to concentrate and get things done. They may be wondering whether their job is at risk, while also wondering how they will manage the pace of work after having been away from their high pressured job.
As a result, they may be having self-doubts about whether or not they will be able to adjust to the new ways of working, with increasing demands.

Some may find this rapid change difficult to manage, particularly as they might feel under pressure to learn fast.
The transition back into work will require time to adjust to changes. For example, noticing that some colleagues are not around may cause concern. This way of thinking can affect confidence and motivation.

One factor that can affect our level of confidence is self-criticism. This is when we ruminate about our errors and criticise ourselves for failing to meet the standards we expect of ourselves. The repeated negative thoughts can cause high levels of stress, and these can lead to further frustration and low mood.

The continued negative self-talk can become a regular pattern that interferes with our mood and productivity. It could also affect our body as it could stimulate an inflammatory response, which could affect our health (Davidson, 2012).

What can we do to boost our confidence?

Developing sense of self-efficacy: Self-efficacy is the belief in our ability that we can cope with challenges. By learning to trust that we have the capacity to tolerate uncertainty and that we can persevere with our efforts to achieve our goals, we can respond more effectively to adapt to new situations (Bandura, 1997). We are then more likely to reach out to others we trust. They can offer us a different perspective on the situation, as well as support and understanding.

Learning to manage uncomfortable feelings: It is normal to want to protect ourselves from uncomfortable feelings; however, this does not serve us well. The first step is to accept the emotions we experience. This does not mean that we surrender or that we have to like them. It is an acknowledgment of reality, while at the same time, we put our attention and energy to what we can do to manage the situation. This is how we develop our resilience (David, 2016)

It is important to acknowledge our feelings so that we can deal with them. They are signalling something important is happening, and that we need to pay attention. By giving ourselves time to understand our emotions, with an attitude of compassion, we can find out what we need to do to improve things (Neff, 2011).

Practising self-care: Even if we feel unsure or worry about making mistakes, when we focus on the steps we can take, we will make progress. And as we make progress, our confidence in our skills will grow.

Sometimes we worry about making mistakes, and about the possible negative consequences that they may lead to. However, if we practise paying attention to learn from them, we can use this knowledge to improve our work. What matters is that we take responsibilty for our work and that we focus on developing our knowledge and skills.


Bandura, A. (1997) Self-efficacy: The exercise of control. New York: W.H.Freeman & Company.

Davidson, R. & McEwen, B. (2012) “Social influences on neuro-plasticity: stress and interventions to promote wellbeing.” Nature Neuroscience, 15.5

David, S. (2016) Emotional agility. Get unstuck, embrace change, and thrive in work and life. London: Penguin,, Random Hou

Dweck, C.S. (2006) Mindset. How you can fulfil your potential. New York: Ballantine Books.

Neff, K. (2011) Self-Compassion. Stop beating yourself up and leave insecurity behind. New York: HarperCollins Publisher.

Seligman, M. (1998) Learned Optimism. How to change your mind and your life. New York: Pocket Books.

Sharot, T. (2012) The Optimism Bias. Why we’re wired to look on the bright side. London: Pantheon Books.

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