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Gordon Tinline Business Psychologist

Feeling anxious about the pandemic we have been experiencing in 2020 seems to me to be a perfectly normal reaction. Most people in the world have no or very limited experience of living with a situation like the one we have all been experiencing. However, like all anxiety, it is a good idea to acknowledge and manage COVID-related anxiety to reduce the risk of it having a long-term negative impact on our health.

The SHARE approach to managing COVID-related anxiety in the workplace


The British Psychological Society (BPS) has published some very useful guidance for employers and employees on COVID-related anxiety and distress in the workplace. They offer the SHARE approach as a way of managing this:

  • SAFE working: Assessing risk in the workplace – It is in everybody’s interest to have a physically and psychologically safe working environment. COVID-19 presents unprecedented challenges for safe working and wellbeing. Prioritising employee wellbeing may have short term costs but is likely to optimise performance over the medium to long term.
  • HELP yourself and others: Communicating and meeting needs – Communication is key to addressing anxiety and distress. Two-way communication about new ways of working will help to reduce uncertainty, distress and ambiguity, and give insight into how to implement supportive measures.
  • ADAPT to change: Diverse workplace situations and adjusting to the ‘new normal’ – Consider different ways of working to reduce fears or concerns related to work and the workplace. In order to adapt to the changes ahead, try to inform yourself of any new requirements and prepare what you need to reduce potential anxiety.
  • RELIEVE the pressure: Helping yourself and others to adapt and cope – Additional training, resources, or mentoring may be necessary for adapting to new ways of working. It is normal to find that performance is affected, and to be concerned by recent events. Settling into a new routine takes time.
  • EVALUATE: Review the situation regularly to ensure ongoing success – Maintain regular reviews with each employee using the SHARE approach. Lockdown conditions, easing and re-introduction of restrictions, and personal circumstances are all subject to change.

I want to focus on two aspects of the SHARE approach in this blog: Adapt to change and Relieve the pressure.

Adapting to change


The pandemic hasn’t brought uniform consistent changes to all of our lives. It has brought challenges that vary enormously for different people, and there have been many changes through the course of COVID-19 so far.

We are not all in the same boat, we are in our own kayaks paddling furiously, and just when we think we are in calmer waters it gets choppy again! For those who have spent most of the time working from home over the last six or seven months, some have clearly adapted well to this and others have struggled. Perhaps you are now required to go back to your workplace and are finding this adjustment worrying. New working patterns are evolving, but for most this probably feels like a difficult transition.

Relieving the pressure


You are likely to feel increased pressure as a result of the pandemic’s consequences. Unfortunately, for too many, this is a result of losing their job. Many will have had their working hours reduced or their jobs temporarily suspended (for example, the UK furlough scheme). If you are still working, you will almost certainly have been exposed to different pressures than those more typical in your past experience. For example, increased job insecurity or fear of redundancy, complying with COVID-safe working practices in your workplace, or having to manage a project with no direct access to resources you previously took for granted.

This increases the importance of compassion both for yourself and others. Self-care is the key starting point here. We deal with pressure better when we are in a healthier mental state, so you may need to do more to maintain your health than you have done in the past. This is not self-indulgent or something that is nice to do when you have time. It is fundamental to your ability to work effectively, live happily, and be there for others that are important to you in your life.

It’s also important to remember that just because you may be coping well with COVID-related pressures, others may not be doing so well. Making assumptions about other people’s lives is easy to do and usually inaccurate. A kind word can go a long way and by reaching out to support others you are likely to feel better about yourself.

What can we do to adapt and relieve pressure?    


So, what are some practical things we can do to help deal with COVID-related anxiety? These seven steps may help:

  1. Don’t expect to feel great every day. Emotional fluctuations are often exaggerated when we are exposed to crises situations. When you feel down, remember that it will probably pass and do whatever you know helps you cope and feel better in the present (e.g. take exercise, eat cake).
  2. If you are going back to your workplace after a prolonged time away from it, you may well be feeling anxious about being more exposed to a greater number of people again on a regular basis. Do all you can to stay socially distanced and safe (e.g. try to commute at less busy times, check your employer has made changes to your workplace to enable social distancing).
  3. Try to do all you can to establish new work routines, particularly if you are working at home much more frequently than you have done in the past. For example, sticking to the same start and finishing times and scheduling in regular breaks.
  4. Keep risks in perspective. It is easy when we hear of tragic cases to blow the COVID risks out of proportion. Be aware of the psychological risk of magnifying the threat, or catastrophising about consequences. You can help to control this by understanding the true risks to you based on your location, age, state of health and identifying safe and sensible precautions you can take. Be careful not to overreact to individual experience stories in the media. The vast majority of the population not getting the virus is rarely a news story and therefore what you notice is rarely balanced in terms of actual risk levels.
  5. When you feel worried about COVID, accept that this is probably a normal reaction and don’t let it stop you taking action or functioning for too long. Identify a practical activity you can do that will make you feel as though you are making progress or being productive, and get on with it.
  6. Try CRAK (COVID Random Act of Kindness) – reach out to someone you know, perhaps a work colleague, who might be more isolated or going through a particularly tough COVID related change (e.g. supporting an ill relative or someone who has been made redundant).
  7. Talk to your manager and colleagues. Discuss how you are feeling about work and ask them how they are feeling. Try to identify any shared actions you can take that will help and plan to implement them. For example, agreeing a rota for breaks to stop too many people congregating in the same place at the same time or agreeing when you will wear masks and when it is safe not to.




Gordon is a very experienced occupational psychologist (Chartered and Registered) and works on a freelance basis (GT Work Psychology).  Gordon has broad cross-sector and multi-level experience.  He has worked extensively with the Police Service, in Defence, with the NHS, in Financial Services and with science and engineering companies, as well as a wide range of other businesses.

Gordon’s work is often focused on helping managers and leaders maximise the wellbeing, psychological resilience and performance of their teams.   As well as his Masters level qualification in occupational psychology he has an MBA from Warwick Business School.  He has recently co-authored a book with Professor Sir Cary Cooper on mid-level role pressures and development (The Outstanding Middle Manager).



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