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It’s stating the obvious to say that COVID has taken its toll on our collective mental health, whether it’s illness or worries over work, career or our future. Yes, event professionals are usually a positive bunch, but equally these have been unprecedented times and all of us have been affected one way or another. Some of us very seriously indeed.


Now that the national and trade media headlines are turning cautiously optimistic, there’s one form of additional pressure further down the line that it’s worth thinking about in advance.

What happens when and if we return to work? How will we manage the acceleration from 10% capacity to the 100% required to run events successfully? What will be the new demands on us as a result of the appetite for hybrid and virtual events? And is there still some residual fear about a (COVID-friendly) office environment that we’ve been told for so long to avoid?

It’s well established that running events is one of the most stressful jobs in the world, as well as one of the most rewarding. Those pressures won’t have gone away when we return to work – it comes with the territory. We’ll also be facing a good deal of uncertainty in the short and medium term. The long-term impacts of the pandemic on the industry are yet to be seen too.

It’s understandable that for some of us the welcome return of work opportunities may also need to come with a warning attached.

So what can we do to ease “Return to Work Anxiety”?

Here are five tips to bear in mind.

1. Your “work brain” is a muscle

You wouldn’t expect to go from the couch to a Marathon in one week. Remember your working mind is a muscle that needs to get working again. It may take you a while to get back to being match fit. And that’s ok, you’re only human like the rest of us.

2. Have faith in your resilience

There's no doubt that event professionals build up stamina and resilience during their career. It comes as a result of working hard to tight deadlines, late nights and hard graft. Most of the time, we do it because we love it, even if we need to keep ourselves in healthy check from time to time. Under normal circumstances, we’re somewhat used to working hard under pressure. The pandemic has felt different because so much has been out of our control, uncertain and overwhelming. That feels like a different kind of unwelcome stress. Once you’re back in the swing of day to day working life, trust that your own natural resources and resilience will return to you again in good time.

3. We’re all in this together

No doubt the world of events has changed, possibly forever. Hybrid and virtual events are unlikely to go away anytime soon, as perhaps should be the case. Sustainability has risen ever further up the events agenda during the pandemic as well. It’s a brave new world but we’re all facing it together. All of us will be figuring out what the future could look like. You are not on your own.

4. Be open

If we’ve learned one thing about our mental health, it’s the importance of talking honestly and openly about it. Times are changing and it’s ok to not be ok sometimes. If you’re feeling anxious about going back to work, there’s plenty of support available as well as friends and family. Talk to your boss and colleagues about how you’re feeling. Initiatives like EventWell and Stress Matters - as well as Mental Health First Aiders - are now a familiar part of the events landscape. Make the most of them. Being open and honest about your feelings isn’t just good for you, it’s an essential part of returning to work.

5. Be kind to yourself

Concern about returning to the workplace is only natural. We’ve never experienced a situation like the one we’re in now. It’s really important we’re kind to ourselves and that we allow ourselves to feel what we feel without guilt, shame or regret. And maybe there’s a few things we started in the pandemic that we want to take back to work with us – a better work/life balance; an exercise regime; more time in nature; meditation; or a gratitude journal. Whatever has made you feel good about yourself during lockdown, hang onto it, you deserve it. And make sure your return to work is a celebration of everything you are.

We know what it’s like to come back to work after the weekend. Even after a long holiday. Returning to work after a pandemic may look more daunting but it doesn’t have to be. Take your time, stay open, be kind to yourself and remember you’re back in it for the long haul – it doesn’t have to feel “right” from Day One.

Ken Kelling is an award-winning Events and PR veteran turned Life Coach.