3 Tips for Staying Healthy as You Return to Your WorkplaceMay 3, 2021 - Katie McCallum
To help reduce the spread of COVID-19, many of us have been working from home for the last year. But as more and more people get vaccinated, you may find yourself returning to your workplace.
Wearing a mask and social distancing are still important — even for those who are vaccinated — but you may be wondering if there are any extra precautions you should take as you return to work.
Here are three tips for staying healthy while working in an office during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic:
1. Keep your distance and avoid gathering in groups
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.
This means that social distancing is just as important now as it was when the COVID-19 pandemic began, even if you're vaccinated. While COVID-19 vaccines provide strong protection from severe illness, we are still learning just how effective these vaccines are at reducing transmission and against each of the COVID-19 variants currently circulating
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
In addition, be sure you're wearing your mask.
2. Know the frequently touched office surfaces where germs may be hiding
Surface-to-person transmission isn't the primary way COVID-19 spreads, but — just as an infected person releases respiratory droplets that have the potential to infect people nearby — infectious respiratory droplets can also contaminate nearby surfaces. This means it may be possible to get COVID-19 by touching a contaminated surface and then touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
Frequently washing your hands and avoiding touching your face throughout the day can help limit your risk of getting sick, but so can limiting your contact with surfaces commonly touched by many people throughout your office.
High-touch office surfaces include:
- Door handles
- Elevator buttons
- Coffee stations and water coolers
- Microwaves and refrigerators
- Counters and tables in the break room
- Vending machines
- Printers and fax machines
After touching these common surfaces, consider washing your hands or using alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
3. 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 lead to stress that affects your motivation, productivity and overall mental health. 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?
- What new disinfection and cleaning protocols have been put in place?
- Will policies be adjusted to further 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, as well as whether there's the potential for you to work during hours that are less busy or continue to work from home.
Lastly, if you're a manager, make sure you're being proactive about having conversations with your employees about their concerns.
Concerned you may have COVID-19?
- If you're experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, you can speak to a Virtual Urgent Care provider 24/7. The provider will help you determine if testing is needed and advise you on where you should go.