Returning to workplace: Important things to know if you're back in the office amid rising COVID cases

Dr. Phan says right now, no matter what your situation is, it's important to not let your guard down.

Denise Dador Image
Saturday, November 14, 2020
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As COVID cases continue to climb, so does growing concern about returning to the workplace. Here are some important things to keep in mind to keep you safe.

Since March, many people have been working remotely. But now some companies are bringing smaller groups of employees back into the office. And as COVID cases continue to climb, many people are expressing a growing concern surrounding their return to the workplace.

After several months of working from home, some may welcome a return to an in-person workspace. But what people left months ago is most likely not the routine they'll be returning to.

MORE: Employees in the office almost double their COVID-19 risk, CDC says

"Now they've got to re-shift again. And it's not going back to the normal workplace, it's going back to a modified workplace," explained Dr. K. Luan Phan, a psychiatrist at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.

Dr. Phan says all the uncertainty we've experienced since March creates unhealthy levels of stress. To alleviate anxiety, he suggests employers might create a return to work plan that outlines safety precautions.

That could include daily temperature checks, keeping workspaces more than six feet apart, providing face coverings and meeting one-on-one instead of in groups.

Also, the physical ways we used to interact with co-workers and show our support will have to change.

"We shake hands, we give hugs, we give high fives and ultimately with a face mask on, we can't express our emotions in a way that we typically would," Dr. Phan said.

MORE: CA bill would require employers to disclose COVID-19 exposure in the workplace

Now, workers will need to verbalize support for each other instead, as everyone reconnects in a new workplace environment.

And we're reminded that going back into an office or workplace can upend our routines too, adding to anxiety levels. That's why experts say how you spend time after work is important too.

Whether you take a walk, talk to a friend, watch TV, read or meditate, it's crucial to make time to do something that helps you unwind, refocus and re-charge.

Dr. Phan says right now, no matter what your situation is, it's important to not let your guard down. It's normal to relax once you get into a familiar setting, but that can make you complacent. So, continue practicing good hand hygiene and keep hand sanitizer and wipes nearby. Pay attention to high touch surfaces or anything that might be a shared surface. And don't go to work if you don't feel well.