Advice column: my anxiety levels shoot up at the prospect of returning to the office
Dear Ash

I have been working from home now since the beginning of lockdown, but my employer has made clear that we are all to return to the office from next week. Although I’m normally quite a bubbly and upbeat person, I am struggling with the idea of returning to work. I have managed to get into a good routine at home and am dreading the prospect of commuting to work and of interacting with colleagues in the office. My anxiety levels increase every time I think about going back to the office, but I’m also conscious that I don’t want to lose my job, especially in the current market conditions.

Ash replies

Lockdown has had an inevitable impact on everyone’s mental health: even those who may not have previously experienced anxiety seem to have been impacted.

You therefore need to try to source some help from your GP; and I’m sure you won’t be alone in seeking such help. Your GP may be able to provide some helpful technical support, such as simple breathing or coping strategies; medication may also be an option depending upon the severity of your condition.

I also suggest speaking to your employer about phasing in your return to work in the office. If your productivity at home has been good, there may be scope for you at least to seek to work from home a couple of days a week, and this may help you to cope better with your anxiety levels. And your employer may have to adopt some form of rota for employees working from the office in any case, in order to ensure that social distance measures are maintained, therefore it is worth asking about working from home.

In addition I highly recommend that you go for a brisk 30-minute walk or running on a regular basis, as the endorphins from such activities should also help with improving your outlook, and provide you with more confidence about the outside world.

There is still much uncertainty about future lockdown measures, therefore try to find a flexible solution with your employer which will not only help you to keep safe on a physical level but will help to address your mental health. You are not alone in how you are feeling; and you may find it helpful to seek some help online in the form of blogs from others with similar concerns or from professional support organisations such as LawCare. Try to remain positive, and keep safe.

Send your queries to Ash

“Ash” is a solicitor who is willing to answer work-related queries from solicitors and other legal professionals, which can be put to her via the editor: peter@connectmedia.cc. Confidence will be respected and any advice published will be anonymised.

Please note that letters to Ash are not received at the Law Society of Scotland. The Society offers a support service for trainees through its Education, Training & Qualifications team. Email legaleduc@lawscot.org.uk or phone 0131 226 7411 (select option 3).

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