Normal but not working normal

Returning to work
Felicia Jones
Written by Felicia Jones

How to return to a new working normal when nothing feels quite the same.

“…. let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is … fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”

Franklin D. Roosevelt

Now I like the sentiment but after 15 months of headlines screaming “terror” and naming the source, it’s reasonable that we still feel afraid. What we’ve been through, being locked in and isolated from friends, colleagues and family isn’t nice or normal. As a result, you may secretly feel paralysed at the thought of returning to life, work and the ‘new normal’.

So, what do you do if you’re still afraid or anxious and feel alone in sharing these sentiments, especially relating to work?

Recognise that you’re not alone

Although people are out and about laughing and joking, there’s still a lot of apprehension from the young and elderly alike. The Chartered Institute of Personnel Development (CIPD) reported in May 2021 that 4 out of 10, that’s 44% of people were not only concerned but actually anxious about returning to work. Some were really nervous, feeling that they were returning as ‘guinea pigs.’ You see, no one knows what’s to come and this is exactly where anxiety is borne from.

So, what else can you do to remain healthy and well and to move forward?

Know your rights!

The Government’s guidance website (, the Health and Safety Executive ( and the CIPD ( all have useful information relating to returning to work.

The latest guidelines (which should be checked regularly as they do change) state that; employers should in the first instance make provision for employees to work from home wherever possible. In cases where this cannot happen, thorough covid risk assessments must be undertaken. Social distancing of 2 metres still exists and only groups of 6 or less can congregate in one place indoors. Frequent cleaning and the maintenance of good sanitation protocols also must be adhered to.

It may help and reassure you to look at The Symptomatic Worker flowchart produced by Public Health England. This gives guidance on what should happen in the case of a positive, negative or inconclusive covid diagnosis.

These are not simply nice rules. These protocols are regulated under your employment contract even if you’re a temporary or bank worker. Hopefully, it won’t come to this but if you have concerns you can bring them to the attention of your line Manager or HR who have an obligation to investigate.

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