Rodney Laws, Editor at Ecommerce Platforms, shares tips to get back to some kind of normalcy to help those mentally adjusted to a post-COVID-19 world but still struggling to work as effectively as they did before.

Recent weeks have shown us essentially what everyday life will, in all likelihood, look like for the foreseeable future, and we are going to be guarding against this frustrating virus for a long time to come.

Before the pandemic came along, some industries (digital media, for instance) already operated a desk-based working model, that allowed them to pivot to remote working with minimal disruption and keep going — but plenty of other sectors of the industry, by necessity more field-based, had to shut down most (perhaps almost all) of their projects. The reduction in economic activity also meant that millions of people found themselves at home, not working.

But even though the initial lockdown period was relatively short, it doesn’t take that long for someone to rewire the way they live and view the world. This means that many people who were furloughed or otherwise left inactive began to feel deep-seated concern about the prospect of returning to work.

What if their skills had deteriorated? What if they couldn’t handle the social elements? And while some people have already succesfully dealt with their anxieties, there are many who are still having a difficult time adjusting to this strange new world; working regularly but feeling distinctly unsure about it.

Focus on planning and preparation

It isn't possible to fully control how you feel while you work in these conditions, so there is really no sense in dwelling on it.

Take the mental energy that would otherwise fester and linger on worries, and put it towards ticking boxes: planning and preparation are essential for being a professional and great for keeping your mind occupied while you’re inclined to worry.

Construction projects happen to be perfect for this because you should already have a clear process of setting out everything you’ll need for a given task. Protective gear, check. Lunch, check. Necessary tools, check. Building plans, check. Vehicle fuel, check. Take your time to really ensure that everything is in place — if you’re still struggling to feel comfortable at work, make a concerted and conscious effort to rebuild your working routine.

Take your tools, for instance. Are you maintaining them as you should? Things can rust within three months, of course, but perhaps you are not really planning ahead because you are assuming that something else will go wrong. This is a mistake.

Putting time into cleaning and readying your tools ahead of time isn’t just about the tools: it is also about your mindset.

Taking a long-term view can also help you avoid surrendering to negative short-term thinking. Reviewing your insurance provisions could be an easy way to shift to such longer view of the situation.

You know, for instance, that it isn’t a good idea to load up your van and head out without good insurance to cover you — and such insurance isn’t hard to handle (online providers make it easy). You should also confirm that you have contents insurance. The same providers will do all the main types of insurance, so to repeat the point, tick all the boxes.

Take as many sensible precautions as possible

Even when you are feeling good, it is still best to remember that we are yet not operating in a post-coronavirus world. COVID-19 is still out there, taking lives and ruining others: there are parts of the world in which its spread continues to accelerate, and any overly-ambitious reduction of social distancing could lead to a full-blown resurgence of a virus that people have caught multiple times.

Accordingly, you need to take as many sensible precautions as you can, even if they inconvenience you or make it difficult to do your job. In the end, your health and that of people around you matters more than your efficiency and productivity. If you get ill, you won’t be able to work at all, and, with the growing evidence that there is such thing as "long covid", there is no telling how long it will take for you to recover adequately.

This means wearing a mask whenever viable, washing your hands before and after work, steering clear of other workers, carefully monitoring your wellness and that of those around you, sanitising surfaces in line with best practices, and following all the latest updates concerning COVID-19 in general, the situation in your area, and the building industry.

Don’t put too much pressure on yourself

Lastly, it is really important that you don’t heap too much pressure on yourself while you try to get back into your old routine. If you spent recent months dealing with the frustration of being unable to do your job and worrying about financial matters, you might well feel a pressing need to outperform your old self and excel, as a way to prove to yourself and others that you are still a valuable professional (and perhaps maximise the amount of money you make).

This is a fine notion, certainly, but think of yourself as a sprinter returning to the track after several months spent idle. If you aim to beat your personal best too quickly, you will be at great risk of pulling, straining or even tearing a muscle. And while the metaphor applies to many forms of work, there’s a notable overlap with construction work: what if you try to lift too much weight and end up seriously injuring your back, leaving you unable to work for even longer?

Your mental health is also important, and demanding too much of yourself will cause you stress. Even if you’ve been back at work for weeks now, you are still at the start of a long process. In the months or even years to come, you will steadily get back to your old level of productivity and comfort. There is no need to rush it — you just need to believe in yourself.

Check if your workplace offers any kind of support for mental health issues. Find out what it is and how to access it. Never hesitate to talk to someone (be it a friend, colleague, manager, or HR person) and ask for help if you feel you are not coping. 

Above all, try and appreciate what you have, do what you can to protect it, and keep believing that there are reasons to be optimistic about the future.

For those who were unable to work during the lockdown, the lifting of restrictions was both exciting and nerve-wracking, and some people who got back to work when they could are still struggling to manage their workloads in such challenging circumstances. If you’re in that position, remember that you are not alone: protect yourself as best you can, and try to relax. There’s only so much you can control.