Advice column: My anxiety about being back in the office is not helped when people wear masks constantly
Dear Ash

I’ve recently returned to the office after working from home for a long period due to the pandemic. However, I am finding that I’m less inclined to be sociable compared to pre-pandemic times. It doesn’t help that we are expected to wear masks when we are not at our desks and some staff choose to wear the masks practically all day. It’s really unnerving and I’m finding it difficult to concentrate and frankly find it easier to work from home! I’m not sure how to address this going forward as I don’t want to feel more isolated at work.

Ash replies

The wearing of masks has effectively become something of a social norm; and whether the rules about masks change or not in the short term, I suspect that many individuals feel safer subconsciously behind their masks and may choose to keep wearing them.

It is important that you give yourself time to adjust and not put any undue pressure on yourself about the social aspects.

Remember back to the lockdown period and how strange and surreal that felt: we had to stay indoors, and were not able to socialise; however, despite all these restrictions, we still managed to adjust to the rules.

You will also overcome this period of anxiety and you will not be alone in having to adjust to your office surroundings. Some of your colleagues who choose to wear the masks even at their desks are perhaps feeling more anxious than others, and may require more time to settle back into their surroundings.

If your anxiety persists, consider asking your manager whether you might be able to work from home at least two days in the week, as this may help to address certain anxieties and give you added flexibility too. Employers are increasingly recognising some of the productivity benefits of increasing such flexibility for employees, therefore your manager may be more open to such a proposal.

Also perhaps suggest meeting up with colleagues for lunch in a park or outside space at a café, as this could be the first step in helping you to address any anxiety about social interaction, while allowing you to feel more comfortable in less restrictive surroundings.

We are slowly but surely resuming normal life, and it’s about convincing ourselves now that we can look to enjoy our freedom once again.

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 them via the editor. 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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