Preparing to Return to the Office as COVID-19 Numbers Decline


As vaccines propagate the nation and the number of COVID-19 cases begin to decline, many workers in the Unites States, who had been forced to remotely telecommunicate, rather than commute to their employment destinations, are faced with re-entry preparation. 

The shelter-in-place/work-from-home orders have been a challenge for every type of occupation. Creating blank wall space as the backdrop for taking calls, meetings, and doing presentations on Zoom, for clients, in relatively unoccupied spaces, was daunting but do-able. Isolation replaced social interaction as a business landscape.  Now, the workplace has been is preparing for a return, but it will not be “normal.”  What is needs to be met for this next challenge so that you are ready to thrive, not just endure?

What Remote Working Tolerated that Offices May Prohibit?

Your remote workspace may have contained: pet noise, children’s’ homeschooling scholarly questions, internet outages, techie charging challenges, and numerous other uncontrollable activities of a home in quarantine. Wearing your pajama bottoms below a starched shirt and tie, can’t happen in the real time world meeting.  Bare feet, frequent snacks, and mid-day hourly breaks are not an option.  

It is again, time to recapture your patience, focus, daily agenda, sense of urgency, and willingness to collaborate, one-on-one or more, during long, uninterrupted staff meetings. 

Silence and loneliness may have permeated many makeshift work areas, but now, an invisible threat, not entirely defeated, must be faced, mitigated, and overcome, in what was once a bustling epicenter for success.

Back to Work-Valid Concerns and the Over-Arching “New Normal”

The thought of returning to work, when encouraged by an employer, during the pandemic, often elicits a mixed reaction. Feeling Euphoria for a return to spaces which are designed to support the tasks that must accomplished, is often coupled with dread at being exposed to the invisible, lethal virus. 

When the workplace environment becomes unsafe, physically, and socially, the human brain experiences a silent revolt, sensing that change is occurring, and that a threat is prevalent. Handling the urge to avoid this reality can be accomplished by having a plan to reduce exposure, following safety guidelines, and establishing strategic goals, to overcome the threat, survive, and thrive. 

Your company may have implemented changes to reduce workplace risks for COVID–19. More likely than not the Health and Safety Representative will re-do their HSR training to ensure they are up-to-date with the current climates safety needs. They will likely reposition desks, installed barriers, designated 6-foot incremental signage, and put in place methods for sanitizing the environs.  

Socialization with others, in close proximity, for extended periods of time, is a precursor to becoming infected, and infecting others. Your actions, and the plan you design for safety, is the best pro-active method for workplace re-entry, safety.  Consider the following:

  • Have pre-existing conditions for illness, such as heart disease, cancer, COPD, or diabetes? Design a plan with your employer, that implements specific practices to reduce your risk at work, even if it means part-time fluctuating hours. 
  • Until a vaccine inoculation is possible, rest, exercise, eat healthy, and get a flu shot to keep well.
  • Not having driven for months, avoid public transportation, but drive with caution, and defensively, as others have also been home bound, and may be easily distracted for the first weeks back on the road. Make sure that your car insurance offers full back-to-work coverage, with accident, liability, and road assistance for any inconvenience, from flat tires to dead batteries.  Freeway Auto Insurance, assists drivers, quickly to get back on the road and out of harm’s way. 
  • Continue to practice social distancing to avoid close contact with others. 6 feet is actually about two arms lengths and is easy to discern and make habitual.
  • Wear N95 or, if not available, “two” masks. Keep them in place over the nose, and well-fitting at the chin. Constant adjustment is a sign of an ill-fitting mask which needs to be replaced. 
  •  Note the proper procedure for cleaning masks. Try not to touch your face. Wash hands often with hot water and soap, or use a sanitizing spray from a reputable manufacturer, containing at least 60% alcohol.
  • If possible, inquire if the ventilation system is incorporating fresh outdoor air, which reduces the risk of being exposed to the infectious airborne droplets of the virus in enclosed spaces. Open windows.
  • Clean the spaces that are frequently touched with disinfectants that are recommended by the Environment Protection Agency. Disinfectants with active ingredients such as hydrogen peroxide, ethanol, or quaternary ammonium work best.
  • Clean cell phones, laptops, computers, and technical equipment according to the directions from the maker or use hand wipes that contain 70% alcohol. Air dry.
  • If you feel sick or are diagnosed with a fever, stay home to keep yourself from spreading the virus.  Isolate and seek medical attention if symptoms worsen.   

Look for the Benefits

Getting back to social interaction in the workplace can be a healthy transition for all when a sense of lightheartedness is present. Finding little ways to laugh at the experiences working from home presented, or giving elbow bumps, not high-fives, are that touch of kindness which the pandemic has seriously depleted.  Look for ways to smile more, even if for now, it cannot be seen behind the priceless masks that keep everyone safe. 

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