How to return to work – from someone in the know

By Anita Jaynes on 22 May, 2020

As furloughed staff prepare for returning to work after a long break, many will be concerned about transitioning back. Here, a local business woman tells her tale to help others settle into their journey.

Catherine Gladwyn, is a Swindon-based virtual assistant and runs her own business, Delegate VA. In 2012, 2014 and more recently, October 2019, Catherine had brain tumours treated with neurosurgery and radiotherapy. Each time there was a need for a long period of recovery, the latest surgery required four months away from working. Catherine knows more than anyone how hard the return to work can be after a time away, and wanted to give TBE readers some tips on how to get back to it.

Stop doing everything

Before the pandemic and social distancing was introduced I was lucky enough to have a cleaner come in to our home every fortnight. When the the social distancing came into effect my cleaner had to go, so that she and I were safe. I reluctantly took on the task of cleaning again because, well, what else have I got to do at weekends? However, it’s safe to say, my cleaner will be reinstated as soon as we’re all safe again.

Because we have a little less to do and we can’t go out for long periods of time it’s easier to do more than we did before the lockdown, but when life returns to a little bit more ‘normal’ remember you’re going to have less time. So, when the time comes, think about what you can offload so you free your mind, your stress levels and have time to breathe.

Be kind –  to you!

I mentor other service based business owners as well as running my own business and one thing I always say to my mentees is to give it at least a couple of weeks when any change comes into your life, no matter how small or how big – bearing in mind you may need more time if the change is huge. Consider how long it took your mind, your sleeping pattern, your body, to adjust to this change in lifestyle. It’s going to take a while to adjust again so be kind to yourself. Every time you feel overwhelmed or stressed say to yourself I will feel differently in two weeks, and know that it will get easier.

Turn off your phone

When I was on my last four month recovery I could spend more time on my phone than I can now. I knew the transition might be difficult so I installed an app block, I also knew my willpower didn’t need that fight!

My app block kicks in from 12pm till 2pm so I have a proper lunch and again from 8:30pm until 7am so that I properly unwind at night. You may wish to have it on at different times but I do recommend you get one because you’re going to have less time for scrolling, pinning, liking commenting and trolling!

Getting up

Three surgeries has meant that I’ve had three periods of recovery and, as you know, sleep aids recovery so I spent a lot of time in bed. Everytime it got nearer to me returning to normal / work I started getting up a little bit earlier in the weeks preceding so that the first day back wasn’t an awful shock to the system.

Start little by little, perhaps 15 minutes at a time. And, if you’ve not been showering very early during the pandemic you might want to reacquaint yourself with that… Plus a reminder, pyjama bottoms are for homeworking only!


You may well have been able to spend time creating homemade food during lockdown. We all know that eating good food contributes to a good mind and more energy, so try to avoid eating on the go and eating over processed food when you do get back to it. I’m not a dietitian, but even I see the difference between eating well one day and eating a massive bar of chocolate the next.


If you’ve had the luxury of working from the settee or doing less work than normal, your body would have benefited from the extra rest and relaxation. So, don’t try and go all in when you return to the new ‘normal’. If I’m having a particularly tired day I will work for 45 minutes and then take a 15 to 20-minute break with a cup of tea. There’s nothing stopping you doing that either. If you’re an employee then I’m sure your employers would just be glad to have you back helping to grow their company, so don’t feel guilty about taking regular breaks – it’s in their best interests too.

Catherine has been providing support to business owners since 2016. She is also author of the multi-award winning bestseller, How To Be A Virtual Assistant. Visit her website: