014 Special: Returning to Work After Lockdown

In June 2020 Marion gathered a panel to discuss experiences of being away from work, and the challenges of returning to surveying and valuation post lockdown.

We invited mindfulness and meditation expert Laura Coleman, who is running webinars a lot of surveyors have been participating in as a way to find support with their anxieties about returning to work.

Surveyors Leslie Milson, who is The Surveyor Hub Admin, and Tim Kenny, who is also a yoga teacher, share their first-hand experiences with doing surveys after the lockdown and how it felt for them.

Mental and Physical Worries About Returning to Work

When we polled The Surveyor Hub members about their worries related to returning to work, many surveyors expressed concerns about practicalities like using toilets at a property or using PPE. However, these physical concerns are increasing the feelings of anxiety and even lead to physical symptoms like digestion problems.

This is where learning meditation and mindfulness techniques can help, according to Laura Coleman.

“Meditation and mindfulness practices allow your nervous system to flick back to the relaxation response, which means that at a physical level, your body isn’t triggered as though it is in a constant fight or flight situation,” Laura says. “If people can build into their daily plans for going back to work some small steps to relax, they can create ways to mitigate some of that anxiety.”

How to Tackle Anxiety and Nerves About Returning to Work

“It can be very simple,” Laura suggests, “like having trigger points in your day where you tune in and be aware of what’s happening in your body right at that moment. You can have cues when you arrive at a property, before you get out of your car, that you’re just gonna do a body scan and literally check how you feel in your body right now. Often that’s all it takes for you to notice that your shoulders are pulled up towards your ears, your jaw is clenched, and you’re really tense. That awareness in itself triggers you to lower the shoulders, take a couple of breaths, and that can be enough to relax.”

“The power of the breath is phenomenal as well. That’s the oldest survival part of our brain, but it’s also the only part of that system we can control. So when we take a deep breath, we create this feedback loop that says ‘well hang on, I’ve taken a deep breath, I can’t be in that much danger since I’m breathing. I’m going to send a signal to my nervous system that I’m okay, and it will call off the walls, and it will create a change in your body as well. So it’s a two-way system.”

A Plan for Mental Health and A Plan For Physical Safety

Leslie and Tim have been out of work for many weeks, and we wanted to know how they mentally and physically prepared for going back.

“I was very worried about not having a job to go back to,” Leslie starts, “which meant I didn’t enjoy the six weeks off. I had no motivation to do anything. But as soon as I knew I was going back, my energy levels rose. And over the two weeks I’ve been back my thoughts have changed and the protocols evolved. I’ve done five inspections now, and I can safely say, nobody has been within two meters of me.”

“There’s almost a leadership role that surveyors can perform,” Tim continues. “If you turn up at a property and you are anxious, the person that you’re dealing with will be impacted by your anxiety. Whereas if you were able to get yourself into a calmer place, they’re going to respond to you in a calmer way and they will have faith in what you’re doing.”

“We send guidance out before the survey,” Leslie adds, “so people know exactly what we’re expecting of them and what they should do, because they don’t have surveyors in the house every week. Then I ring them the day before, so we’re already building a relationship with the people we’re meeting. I even found that people were cleaning houses for two days before we arrived, out of safety concerns.”

How Surveyors Survey Mindfully

Tim emphasises the sense of confidence he gained back when he went through the surveying routine and wrote a report for the first time after a few months off work. In that sense the surveying routine can be looked at as a mindfulness practice in itself.

“We all have our routines that we do without thinking,” Leslie adds. “But on the first couple of surveys after going back to work my brain froze. I thought I was fine going back, but I was obviously more anxious than I thought because I couldn’t remember my routine!”

A good way to overcome this anxiety can be practicing visualisation of the survey routine that we’ve done hundreds of times. Visualising the routine can become a memory that we can pull up and go through in our head before going to a property, so we can be less anxious about it.

“Visualisation is so powerful,” Laura concludes. “If you’re visualising your routine, visualise it going really well, feeling confident, coming through the end of the survey and feeling like you’re safe and like you’ve done a great job.

To listen to the podcast click here

Connect with Laura Coleman

Connect with Leslie Milson

Connect with Tim Kenny

Connect with Marion Ellis


The Surveyor Hub is a proud partner of  Lionheart, the benevolent fund which supports RICS members and their families.