As we inch back towards normalcy following the past six months of COVID-imposed quarantine, many of us have jobs that are beginning the process of reopening for in-person work. While many with the opportunity to opt out are going to continue working and learning remotely, this isn’t an option for everybody, and some would simply prefer to get back into the office.
While coronavirus cases in many parts of the United States have at least begun to subside, and places like New York City have gotten the spread relatively contained, the pandemic is still very real, and it’s important to make sure you’re still doing everything you can to protect yourself and your loved ones from infection. Here are six tips to help you stay safe while going back to work.
This is certainly nothing new, and hopefully it’s a step you’ve already been taking while out in public over the course of the past several months. The Centers for Disease Control recommend wearing a mask while around others, particularly in enclosed environments, which has been shown to reduce risk of contracting or spreading COVID-19. Wash your hands regularly, and use hand sanitizer when soap and water are not readily available. Regularly cleaning your desk and workstation is also highly recommended.
What is your workplace doing to reduce the risk to their employees during the pandemic? Some offices are installing plexiglass dividers to avoid free airflow that might cause the virus to be transmitted from cubicle to cubicle. Others are doing staggered work schedules, so that all employees are not in the office on the same day. Does your office provide hand sanitizer and masks for its employees? Find out what measures are being taken and make your own suggestions to ensure the safest possible work environment.
We understand that many are dependent on public transportation for their commute, but if possible, try to avoid crowded trains or buses while getting to work for the time being. Biking or walking to work may be an option for some. Carpooling isn’t ideal right now but can allow you to at least have some control over who you’re riding with and know that everyone you’re coming into contact with is observing necessary safety protocols.
While in the office, try to continue wearing a mask and maintaining six feet distance from colleagues. Instead of crowding into the conference room for meetings, try to continue holding them on Zoom or FaceTime when possible. Watch out for spaces where you may end up in close quarters with others – if the elevator is packed, try waiting for the next one or taking the stairs.
Be careful around high-traffic areas of your office, especially the break room. Make sure that things that are touched by numerous people, such as the coffee pot or fridge handle, are being regularly sanitized. This can be an especially hazardous area because you can’t eat lunch while wearing a mask, so when possible try to take lunch away from other employees, whether outside or at your desk.
If you’re worried about the safety of your work environment or the behavior of your coworkers, it’s important to make sure that your concerns are heard. Avoiding transmission of the coronavirus has to be a team effort, and open communication about safety practices is vital to getting everyone pulling in the same direction. If you don’t believe that your office is doing enough on a policy level to keep you safe, don’t be afraid to speak up!