As Safer at Home restrictions become eased, it’s natural to have some anxiety and concerns returning to on-site work environments, as well as to public life in general. Is it safe to return to work, to dine in restaurants even with social distancing protocols in place, or to let children return to the classroom?
The uncertainty of the COVOD-19 situation and not knowing the answers can trigger strong worry that can manifest itself in many mental and physically problematic ways as we try and return to work and society. While we can make our choices to return to the public at this time or not, oftentimes there may not be much of a choice to not return to the workplace, driven by economic need, trying to keep one’s job, or to help a business from shutting its doors forever. The pandemic, in addition to tragically taking over 100,000 lives in the US, has also battered the economy, and employment has skyrocketed to over 14% in the US in a matter of a month.
Safety and physical and mental health need to be the continued primary concerns as we try to move forward again with our lives and our work. If you have returned, or are soon returning to work, here are 7 guidelines to follow that can help offer protection against the Corona Virus and other communicable diseases, as well as help you manage your stress by knowing that you are doing all you can in the situation to stay safe.
7 Tips for Managing COVID-19 Stress When Returning to On-Site Work
1. If you used to carpool or use public transportation to get to work and back each day, try and opt-out of these options if possible. Consider if driving alone, biking, or walking to work are viable options for you. If you must use public transportation, wear a cloth facemask the entire time, consider wearing protective gloves, & dispose of these properly and safely after your transport. Wash your hands thoroughly or use hand sanitizer and be sure to clean items such as your purse and cellphone with a disinfectant wipe.
2. Keep your personal work area clean throughout the workday with disinfectant wipes or a 70% alcohol solution applied with a paper towel. Clean your phone, keyboard, and desk as well as any other surfaces you regularly are in contact with such as doorknobs or desk handles.
3. Wash your hands often with warm water and soap, scrubbing thoroughly for at least 20 seconds. In the absence of washing, use hand sanitizer.
4. Steer clear of physical contact. Although a handshake or hug might seem in order with some co-workers you haven’t seen in a long time, avoid this for now and maintain social distancing in your workplace, keeping 6 feet away from other people. When possible & permitted, arrange work areas such as desks and workstations in such a way to encourage social distancing.
5. Wear a mask when interacting with other people. Protective gloves add a layer between your hands and the surfaces you are in touch with. Remember that your employer is responsible for providing and maintaining a healthy work environment, so be aware of any additional safety equipment or protocols in place to protect your health and safety.
6. When possible, replace in-person meetings with video chats such as Zoom, even if you are all on-site. Instead of in-person conversations, calls, texts, or emails can be used to help encourage social distancing at the workplace. If in-person meetings are necessary, maintain social distancing between the participants, and limit the number of people attending the meeting to avoid having a lot of people in a small area all at one time.
7. Eat at your desk, by yourself outside or in your car. Avoid the public gathering areas of the building such as the lunchroom or break area.
Each work area is unique, but the safety protocols of using good judgment, social distancing, PPE, and keeping surface areas disinfected apply across the board to increase the safety of you and the others you work and interact with. You may discover or be encouraged to think of or take other steps to further ensure your safety and the safety of the others while at work. And while keeping social distancing and cleanliness key to address workplace health & safety, open communication on these still remains crucial to make sure everyone is on the same page and agrees to abide by the steps in place to protect everyone’s health.