5 Tips for Staying Healthy as You Return to Your WorkplaceFeb. 23, 2022 - Katie McCallum
Many of us have been alternating between working from home and at the office during the pandemic — matching the ebb and flow of COVID-19 transmission in our areas.
With caseloads retreating once again, you might find yourself preparing to head back into the office. You may also be wondering what precautions you need to take.
Here are five tips for staying healthy while working in an office during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic:
1. Get vaccinated and boosted
As you head back into the office, use it as an opportunity to check whether you're up to date with your COVID-19 vaccinations, which may include a booster shot. (Related: How Do I Know If I Need a COVID-19 Booster Shot?)
If you're not yet vaccinated, know that COVID-19 vaccines are safe, effective and our best defense against this virus.
Even if you've had COVID-19, get vaccinated and boosted. The immunity offered by vaccination is stronger and lasts longer than natural immunity. Plus, data shows that unvaccinated adults are twice as likely to get reinfected with COVID-19 than those who get vaccinated after recovering from their illness.
2. Keep common precautions top of mind
Even if community transmission is low in your area, it's still important to practice proper hand hygiene and, in certain situations, continue the safety precautions known to help keep yourself and others safe.
Don't be shy about keeping your distance or continuing to wear a mask. Wearing a mask helps keep you from spreading COVID-19 if you're sick and don't yet know it. It also protects you, the wearer, from getting sick, too. (Related: Here's Why You Should Wear A Mask Even If Everyone Else Isn't)
Your company may require you to wear a mask, but, even if it doesn't, you might consider wearing one while in common spaces, such as:
- Conference rooms
- Break rooms
3. Avoid gathering as a large group in a small space
The most likely way for COVID-19 to spread is from person-to-person — primarily between people who come into close contact with one another (Related: Social Distancing: How Far Is 6 Feet, Anyway?). And keep in mind, an infected individual can be asymptomatic but still contagious.
A mask can help prevent spread, but keeping your distance is another layer of protection.
Tips for social distancing in the workplace:
- Redesign conference-room seating to ensure six feet of distance can be maintained between meeting attendees
- Avoid congregating in the breakroom and consider eating at your desk
- Utilize teleconference tools at your work desk for large meetings
- Avoid crowded elevators and elevator banks by waiting for a less crowded elevator or taking the stairs
4. Know the COVID-19 symptoms and what to do if you test positive
Even if you're doing everything right, like getting vaccinated, wearing a mask, and practicing social distancing and good hand hygiene, you may still find yourself in a situation where you've been exposed to someone with COVID-19 and/or are experiencing symptoms yourself.
After a COVID-19 exposure, how you self-quarantine depends on whether or not you're recently vaccinated or, if you were vaccinated some time ago, whether or not you've gotten your COVID-19 booster. (Related: Quarantining & Isolating During COVID-19: Who Should Do It and How to Do It)
If you're experiencing symptoms yourself, whether you've had a known exposure or not, get tested. And if you get a positive result, it's important to know the six things you need to do after testing positive for COVID-19, which includes alerting coworkers you've recently been in close contact with.
The most common COVID-19 symptoms include:
- Muscle or body aches
- Vomiting or diarrhea
- New loss of taste or smell
5. Be upfront with your questions and concerns
Just as the day-to-day stress of a job can take its toll, the concern of returning to work during a pandemic can be stressful, too. One of the best ways to reduce your anxiety about returning to work is to get your questions answered.
Ask your manager the following:
- Will all employees and guests be required to wear a mask?
- How will social distancing be enforced throughout the office?
- Will policies be adjusted to encourage employees to stay home if sick?
- What's the procedure for identifying and isolating someone who comes to work sick?
In addition, if you're more vulnerable to serious COVID-19 illness, you may want to consider letting your manager know. You and your manager can talk through the extra precautions you'll need to take.
Lastly, if you're a manager, make sure you're being proactive about having conversations with your employees about their concerns.