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Heading Back to Work During the Pandemic?

Tips and Strategies for Staying Safe as You Head Back to Work

When the pandemic first raged out of control, prevention methods weren’t well known and there was no vaccination, so many businesses that could operate through technology decided to close their doors and allow their employees to labor from home. It seemed like the safest way to maintain operations while keeping everyone safe. Some countries even went into total lockdown. However, a lot has changed since then. For instance, vaccines are readily available and so are masks, we can test for COVID-19 from the comfort of our homes and have the results in a few minutes, we have a better understanding of how the virus is spread, and the medical field has had time to learn how to best treat it. So as more and more people are vaccinated and the threat of infection has lessened, some employers are pushing their employees back to the office.

Although some workers are happy to return to the workplace, the idea fills others with anxiety. After all, few employers are enforcing vaccination mandates, so there’s no way to know whether your coworkers have been vaccinated. Some people are unable to get vaccinated due to other health conditions, so they face a higher risk of contracting the virus. Additionally, no vaccination is full proof, and the vaccines that protect us against COVID-19 are no different. Plus, testing kits aren’t always easy to find, and they may be priced out of some personal budgets. The most cause for alarm and the biggest source of anxiety for many workers is that there’s a new variant in town, the Omicron variant, and it seems particularly contagious. This variant is spreading rapidly and has been seen in at least 77 countries and is filling intensive care units across the United States with more COVID-19 patients. So, there are plenty of reasons to feel apprehensive about returning to the office. However, if your employer is insistent that you return to in-person work, and you don’t want to give up your job, then there are a few things that you can do to manage your anxiety and [stress about getting back to the workplace.](/work-related-stress/)

Knowledge Is Power

Since knowledge is power, you might be able to soothe your anxiety by learning about the changes your employer has made to mitigate and prevent a COVID-19 outbreak in the workplace. For instance, some employers have reworked their venting system so that air no longer recirculates throughout the building, while others have decided to leave the windows open during group meetings and restrict the amount of time they list in order to limit exposure. There’s a line of precautions that your employer can take, so determine where your boss lies on the continuum. The information should be easy to find. Most employers are notifying their workers directly, but if not, you can check on their website or simply ask. Additionally, OSHA has presented guidance for protecting the public, so check to make sure that your employer is doing what it can to follow it. If you see red flags, then ask about making changes. Hopefully, it will all check out, and you’ll feel relieved that your employer is keeping your health and safety in mind.

Unfortunately, you might see some red flags when you first return to the office, so what can you do about it? Report any major red flags up the chain and make suggestions if you feel it will be productive. Just as the pandemic continues to evolve, so do our laws and regulations, so check out the EEOC’s governmental website for what you can expect and how your employer should comply.

Get Vaccinated

The good news is that the number one way to protect yourself from COVID-19 is mostly in your control! According to the CDC, the best thing to do for yourself is to get fully vaccinated. That means receiving two shots of the vaccine made by Moderna or Pfizer, or one shot of the vaccine that’s manufactured by Johnson and Johnson. Then in about six months or so, you’ll need to get a booster shot. Protecting your health has never been so easy. Although every vaccine carries risks and no vaccine creates 100% immunity against all variants, the vaccines that have been approved for COVID-19 are so effective that they’re completely free in several countries, including Germany, Indonesia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. If you haven’t had your COVID-19 vaccination, then there’s no time like the present to make it happen by considering it. You can call your local pharmacy or your doctor to make an appointment, or you can visit this website to find the nearest location that is administering the vaccine and boosters.

Protect Yourself During Your Commute

Traveling to the workplace safely is a big source of stress for some employees. Limiting how many people you come in contact with within an enclosed space can help lessen your chances of catching COVID-19, so driving yourself to work might help if you’re particularly worried. If that’s not an option for you, then consider getting a ride from Uber, Lyft, or a similar ride-share platform since those companies have a policy that both drivers and riders must mask up. However, just as the pandemic continues to evolve, so will business policies, so it’s best to check for the latest information before ordering a ride. Better yet, try walking or biking to work if it’s feasible. You’ll be out in the open air and around nature, plus you’ll be getting some exercise. Both of which are known for improving physical and mental health, so it’s a win-win. If you must take public transportation, then make sure you wear a mask properly during the commute. Leave your mask in place the entire time and keep your hands away from your face. It’s great if you can social distance while on the job, which works quite well if you’re tucked into your own office; however, if that’s impossible, then you should try to maintain as much separation from your colleagues as you reasonably can. Remember to use hand sanitizer or wash your hands when you reach your destination.

Regardless of how you’re traveling to work, you can use the time to boost your mental health. Listening to a fun podcast, participating in a guided meditation exercise, listening to a pleasurable audiobook that you’ve been dying to hear, or jamming out to some upbeat music, are all great ways of coping with stress. Making the most of your commute will help get you in the right mindset for powering through the day.

Protect Yourself At Work

Even after you’ve been vaccinated, you should continue being proactive with hand hygiene and keeping a physical distance from others whenever possible. Consider wearing a mask when in public areas and when interacting closely with others, even if your boss doesn’t require it. Be strategic about how you complete your tasks. If your building has a crowded elevator, then take the stairs instead. Not only are you less likely to encounter many people along your way, but you’re receiving the added benefit of physical exercise, which can help alleviate stress. Use the copy machine when it’s less likely to be crowded, and steer clear from the office vending machine altogether. The food is usually unhealthy and overpriced. If you bring your meal to work, then stay in your office alone to eat it or head outside, since it’s safer to remove your mask when alone or when outdoors. Take a quick mental break if you find yourself becoming overwhelmed. If your job allows, then spending a few minutes to do some deep breathing, scroll through social media, or work a puzzle, can help you decompress and stop the cycle of worrying in its tracks.

Conclusion

The arrival of the Omicron variant has persuaded some employers to continue with remote working, but if your company has decided that you must return to in-person work, then try to keep things in perspective. Some workers have been on the front line and exposed to the virus since day one. We’ve seen nurses, doctors, food service workers, scientists, cashiers, delivery drivers, and other essential workers putting their lives on the line every day to keep us going during this pandemic. Thankfully, since the pandemic started a couple of years ago, we’re more knowledgeable than ever about how to mitigate and prevent its spread. Keep those tools in mind as you head back to the workplace.

For more support, join our empathetic community, chat with a free trained listener, make progress through a community-driven growth path, or start affordable online therapy today.

Biography

GoldenNest2727 is a veteran of the US Army, where she served as a medic. She earned her BA and JD before life took her in a different direction when she became a caregiver and began working as a ghostwriter. She has graduated from the Content Development and Marketing Program at the 7 Cups Academy and continues to be passionate about content that raises mental health awareness and support. GoldenNest2727 is one of her many pseudonyms.


Posted: 01 February 2022
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