Going Back to Work

Navigating the New Normal. So now we are going back to work…. But how are we going to do that?

Here in Australia and in particular South Australia we have been spared the level of infection and illnesses of the COVID-19 virus that we have witnessed in other countries. Very quickly the staff in The University of Adelaide have adapted to different ways of working, whether this has been working from home, working from a nearly empty campus or quickly converting all education into on line packages for the students.

First, we need to take a moment and reflect and congratulate ourselves on a great job!

Now it is time to return to our normal life; but what is our normal life. We know that things will never go back to the way it was. Yet at the same time this provides all of us with an opportunity to create a better ‘normal’. Let’s look at how we can do things differently and maybe achieve better results. Maybe we have had a chance to look within and find our strengths, realise what is important and we may have found an even deeper connection for our family, friends and colleagues. Let’s not lose this as we go into navigating our new normal.

For some of us we may have loved the new way of working. What is not to love with being able to arrive at work within seconds of leaving your kitchen or maybe being able to wear your ugg boots to work. For some workers they have found that they have got more work done, were able to concentrate without all of the interruptions of working in a busy office. For others, the isolation has led them to despair as they discover how much they need the buzz of the office to work well. It might have been that your students are now accessing all of their learning on line, which you may have welcomed or you may have found you are missing the interaction with students. So as we go into the new normal we need to understand that we are all starting from a different starting point.

If you are a supervisor you will have a slightly different role to many workers as you will need to care for yourself and your staff. The Learning and Development Team have Online Offerings web-page with resources available for staff including topics such as leading for change, productivity and personal effectiveness.

Most importantly stay home if you are feeling unwell.

The following tips may assist all staff during this time of transition.

  • Care for yourself

    Acknowledge how well you have managed over this trying period. Remember that it is quite normal to feel worried, scared or stressed but you have managed and continued to work. However, if these feelings are interrupting your life and work, it is important to speak with either your supervisor, your colleagues or contact the Employee Assistance Program and arrange a time to talk through how you are feeling.

    If you are concerned about returning to work speak with your supervisor and openly discuss your concerns. If you are catching public transport you may like to travel out of peak hour times to avoid the extra people. Discuss this with your supervisor and determine what might be arranged considering the work you do. It may even be possible to work some days from home but first discuss this with your supervisor. If you are catching public transport carry a small container of hand sanitiser and remember to clean your hands after alighting. Remember to not touch your face, eyes or mouth. You may prefer to drive into your workplace for some days.

    If you are catching public transport it is a good time to practice gratitude or even practice your mindfulness such as being aware of your surroundings. (Mindfulness awareness: observe your surrounding and how they are affecting you. For instance is there sunshine, is it warm, what else can you see? Focus on what is going past and really take time to notice how you are feeling as you become aware of your surroundings. Notice the colours, movement, smells. Allow your senses to tell you what they are experiencing. View the world with gentle observation.)

    At times at your work place you may find that you have a long wait to safely utilise the lifts. You may prefer to climb the stairs in which case think of this as part of your fitness plan!

  • Communicate with your team

    Be part of the planning for the return to work. Ask your supervisor to explain what is happening across the University. Ensure, if you are a supervisor or manager of a team, that all of the team have an opportunity to discuss how they are feeling about returning to work. Check in on your work colleagues. You may find that not all of your team is coming back into work at the same time.

  • Comply with SA Government regulations and University requirements

    We still need to ensure we keep our physical distance at work. Remember to regularly wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds. Where you don’t have access to soap and water use hand sanitiser. Avoid touching your face, eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands. Where possible, avoid using shared office equipment. Follow the requirements of your local area/School/Branch/Faculty/Division/University (as applicable), in relation to return to work arrangements (e.g. including social distancing, personal hygiene and cleaning). The SA Government also have a regulations to follow.

  • Explore different ways of working

    We won’t be able to have large meetings or maybe not all of the team can be at work at the same time. The days of every student attending a lecture may have passed for the time being. So how can we stay in touch with colleagues and or students, meet with people and continue to work. It is possible to meet someone as long as you keep your 1.5 metre distance. Is it possible to grab a coffee and head outside for a meeting? Fresh air may just invigorate everyone! Continue to utilise zoom to meet ‘virtually’ with each other. Speak with your supervisor about what is the best way for you to stay healthy, perform in your role and support each other.

  • Monitor self and others

    Keep an eye out for each other. Some people may struggle with the new ‘normal’. Watch for signs of people struggling with the emotional impact and the ongoing worries regarding the Covid-19 virus. Some people may become quiet and withdraw, for others they may become argumentative or irritable. Work outputs may change, presenteeism may occur (they are present but not engaged in work), deadlines may be missed or productivity declines. For some of us the rate of change during the time of Covid-19 has been breath taking. We may now find we are having difficulty in making decisions.

    If you are feeling like this speak to someone, a colleague, your supervisor or the EAP. If you notice a co-worker is experiencing difficulties speak with them. Try asking "are you are ok?" This is such a powerful question but remember to take the time to listen to their answer. Take time to chat to colleagues, while we are keeping our physical distance we do not want to be socially distant!

    Keep an eye on your working hours. Remember to focus on your own health and wellbeing and part of that is to maintain a healthy work life balance.

  • Ensure you are getting sufficient sleep

    We may find that with all of the rapid changes occurring across our life and work, our sleep and our quality of sleep may be diminishing. Understand that sleep is critical for good mental health and that poor sleep leads to difficulties in concentrating and working.

    We need to prioritise “good sleep”.  Some simple tips include:

    • Switching off your computer, phone or other devices at least one hour before bedtime will assist you in falling asleep.
    • In the morning try to get outside and exercise and expose yourself to natural light to help reset the circadian rhythms (also known as your sleep/wake cycle or body clock). If you can’t get outside then make sure the blinds are open or switch on the lights.
    • Try to stick to a consistent sleep schedule which also helps keep your circadian rhythm in check.
    • Schedule your caffeine as caffeine (coffee, tea, cola drinks or energy drink) can keep your awake by boosting your adrenaline production and blocking sleep inducing chemicals in the brain. It takes six hours for half of the caffeine that you have drunk to be processed.

Employee Assistance Program (EAP)

The University of Adelaide support staff and their families by providing access to two Employee Assistance Program (EAP) service providers, offering you a choice of providers and locations across Adelaide. 

Further information

Please contact the University’s Workplace Wellbeing Specialist (HR Branch), Ronda Bain