Coronavirus made working from home the norm for most of 2020 and into 2021, however some businesses have begun to gradually return to their offices. As people across the world ease into what was once normal, many remain concerned of potential outbreaks at work, massive shut downs, companies policies to avoid infections, among other issues. While the idea of returning to work in person may sound a bit anxiety-inducing, this guide will navigate what precautions companies are taking as well as what employees can do to keep themselves safe.
Steps Companies Are Implementing
The big question on everyone’s mind at the moment is whether companies will require employees to be vaccinated before returning to the workplace. According to the AARP, technically an employer can require their employees to be vaccinated, however, there are many exceptions that they would need to legally adhere to. The most likely scenario is that employers will strongly encourage the vaccination, but not require it across the board.
The transition of returning to work is a bit daunting. “A major consideration every organization should evaluate before issuing a return-to-work order are the practices they have adopted to promote a safe physical environment for workers,” the National Safety Council (NSC) stated in their SAFER guide.
Here’s what strategies companies can utilize, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC):
- Temperature Checks
One of the symptoms of Coronavirus is an individual having a temperature above 100.4° Fahrenheit. Be sure that screeners are properly protected through physical barriers and to maintain social distancing of six feet if employees are screening themselves.
- Hand Sanitizing Stations
Providing access to hand sanitizing stations throughout the workplace will help remind employees to consistently keep their hands clean.
- Social Distancing Requirements
To maintain a distance of six feet between staff, companies are moving workspaces around, directing foot traffic, and setting up visual cues.
- Consistent Deep Cleaning
To prevent spread, businesses are cleaning and disinfecting commonly touched surfaces at least once a day.
- Mask Requirements
Companies are requiring employees to wear masks and even provide face coverings for employees that don’t have one.
- Ventilation Upgrades
Companies are exploring upgrades to their ventilation systems as the CDC recommends routine HVAC maintenance and general ventilation improvements.
How Companies Can Assist Employees With Physical Limitations/Are Immunocompromised
While some companies are slowly bringing employees back, many are still allowing people to work from home, particularly those most vulnerable to Coronavirus such as the immunocompromised as per CDC guidelines.
However, if you do find yourself needing to go to the workplace, there are a few steps employers and you can do to keep you safe.
- Maintain a social distance of at least six feet.
- Use a face covering whenever you’re at the workplace. Employers should already be implementing this and/or providing clean masks.
- Employers should keep all commonly used surfaces cleaned and disinfected every day, but you can take measures into your own hands and regularly clean your workspace.
- Wash your hands often for at least 20 seconds, especially if you’ve visited a public space.
Steps That Employees Can Take
Along with employer’s precautions, you should also take responsibility for your health. These are some extra measures you can take to protect yourself from Coronavirus.
- Take your own temperature before you go to work every morning. This way, you can avoid the risk of exposing others, especially if your employer doesn’t implement temperature screenings.
- If you find yourself experiencing any symptoms or had contact with someone with Coronavirus, stay home! If you feel well enough, request to work from home and don’t risk spreading the virus to your co-workers.
- Read up on and adhere to all company guidelines on best COVID practices. No method is perfect, but the more you stay on top of these practices the less likely you’ll contract Coronavirus.
- Know the limitations of your workplace, particularly where spaces are small and/or narrow so you are able to maintain social distance. If you are in smaller spaces, be sure to wear a face covering and be aware of your surroundings.
- Turn down any large gatherings from your company, even if outdoors. It’s no fun being a party pooper, but prioritize your health over social functions.
Open the Conversation With Your Company on Whether It’s Necessary You Return
If the time arrives for you to return to the workplace and you still feel uncomfortable with the idea, perhaps you should lead the conversation on the benefits of working from home for both you and your employer. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:
- Document your work and keep track of your progress to prove your productivity does not wane while WFH. In fact, it might even increase. One study showed that employee productivity increased by 13% while working from home. In some cases, working from home offers fewer distractions and may even increase morale if you’re not a fan of your office workspace.
- If you’re concerned your supervisor won’t be open to you working from home, lay out your concerns with your HR department. Present your productivity growth and, for extra measure, offer to take on additional tasks to show your caliber. HR can help you navigate your company’s guidelines and may even help you speak with your supervisor about your options.
- Most importantly, be honest with your boss. Be upfront about your safety concerns and ask for flexibility on their end. More than likely, they’ll appreciate your candor and be willing to work around your concerns.
Working Parents With Kids in Remote Learning
Working while raising kids is stressful enough as it is, but throw in the inconvenience of Coronavirus and it makes daily tasks that much more daunting. For the working parents, these are a few options to make your life a bit simpler:
- If you have the financial means, consider childcare services. There are plenty of resources out there that can make finding help much easier. If hiring someone to support you taking care of your children, consider reaching out to trusted neighbors, family friends, family members, or even private tutoring services.
- With the whole family stuck at home with not much to do can lead to trouble. Be sure to keep an eye on your children and teenagers’ internet browsing by using home security monitoring services with smart home devices.
- Check with your company HR department to see if they would be willing to reimburse you for child care costs. In unprecedented times such as these, your company may be willing to help out.
- If all your childcare options are exhausted, don’t give up yet. Work with your HR department to see if your company would be willing to grant you an exemption to work from home. Be ready to prove to them that you’re just as productive working from home as you are at the office to back up your request.