As a country, we’re moving towards a (new) normal. Slowly but surely, people are going back to work.
Some are shifting from temporary remote work, and some are re-entering businesses that have been completely closed during mandated government shutdowns. If you’re one of them and it’s making you feel uneasy, you’re not alone. Surveys by PwC and Washington Post-Ipsos showed more than half of American workers had concerns about returning to work post-COVID.
Feeling stress or even fear in such an uncertain time is completely normal. But remember, some of the most powerful tools at your disposal are education and early preparation. Try following these 7 simple steps to make your transition back to the workplace safer and less stressful.
1. Ask questions.
No one expects you to know it all! If you are unsure about something, don’t be afraid to ask. Your company may have formed a dedicated COVID response team, so find out who these people are so you know where to direct your questions.
Getting the facts about COVID-19 (the CDC has an excellent resource page here) will help you protect yourself and others, and make you feel more confident. Keep in mind that the CDC still recommends the same basic safety precautions it has for months, such as:
- Take your temperature before heading to work every day.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
- If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick, even inside your home.
- Practice social distancing and keep about 6 feet between yourself and others (that’s about the length of 2 arms).
- Avoid crowded places and don’t gather in groups.
- Wear a cloth face cover when around others.
- Watch for fever, cough, shortness of breath, or other symptoms of COVID-19, and follow CDC guidance if you get sick.
2. Learn the drill at your workplace.
There may be changes to your workplace you haven’t considered, and no one likes walking into a situation where they don’t know what to expect, or what is expected of them. For example, some polite behaviors that were common before the coronavirus, like shaking hands, are now viewed as off-limits.
Also, your employer has put safety measures in place specifically for your site. There will probably be new restrictions and new procedures to learn. For example, your workplace may have:
- Implemented daily health checks, like temperature and symptom screenings.
- Limited the entrances they would like you to use.
- Restricted common areas, like cafeterias and breakrooms.
- Placed limits on how many people can gather in certain rooms.
Getting the lay of the land ahead of time will ease your mind. Learn the new rules so you can follow them to the best of your ability. Many companies have created centralized COVID resource centers for their employees, so be sure to bookmark that site.
3. Get the right protective gear.
The CDC recommends wearing a cloth face covering over your nose and mouth if you must be around other people. Your employer is required to provide this and any other personal protective equipment that’s required to do your job. Determine what you need ahead of time, and when and where your employer plans to provide it.
If you have personal health issues that limit your ability to use this equipment, talk to your HR representative for guidance.
4. Know the high-touch areas.
There are certain objects and surfaces around every workplace that are handled frequently throughout the day. These are known as high-touch areas. Some examples include:
- Bathrooms sinks
- Water coolers
Identify where these areas are in your workplace, and if you aren’t sure, ask! Avoid touching these areas as much as possible. If you do touch them, disinfect them afterwards and wash your hands thoroughly. Your employer should have amped up the cleaning schedule and provided you with sanitizers and disinfectants for personal use.
5. Own your personal workspace.
While we’re on the subject of cleaning, let’s talk about that special nook where you frame pictures of your kids and pets and scribble messy reminders to yourself: your workspace!
There are many things we can’t control right now, but one thing you can take ownership of is your personal workspace. Clean and disinfect your personal area daily, including your desk, mouse, phone, and keyboard. Make this your safe space, and don’t be shy about asking others to keep their distance.
7. Connect with your co-workers.
Talk openly with your co-workers, supervisors, and employees about how the pandemic is affecting work while maintaining social distancing (at least 6 feet). Identify the challenges and work together to find solutions.
The benefits are a two-way street; sharing your worries with others can help ease your stress, and helping people improves your sense of control, belonging, and self-esteem. Look for safe ways to offer support to the people around you, like connecting through phone calls, email, text messages, video chat, or social media.
Don’t forget, in any work setting, it’s preferable to limit sharing of very personal or confidential info to your HR representative, or a supervisor you trust.
7. Take care of your mental health.
Your employers want to know that you feel safe at work. And just like you, your co-workers are doing their best to follow the protocol and avoid doing anything that makes their workmates uncomfortable.
If someone’s actions are causing you concern, speak up! In some cases, it may be helpful to run this by HR or a supervisor before confronting a co-worker.
Also, be mindful of any anxiety that creeps in, especially in the beginning. Learn to recognize the symptoms of stress, such as:
- Feeling irritation, anger, or in denial
- Feeling uncertain, nervous, or anxious
- Lacking motivation
- Feeling tired, overwhelmed, or burned out
- Feeling sad or depressed
- Having trouble sleeping
- Having trouble concentrating
If you have kids at home, plan how you will check in with them throughout the day, whether it’s a family text chain or video chat. If you have video security cameras installed at home, you can do live look-ins right from your smartphone.
If you need access to mental health resources, ask your supervisor or an HR representative. Also, check out our tips for how to stay calm in an emergency.
Virtual security appointments are now available!
Since the beginning of the COVID crisis, Guardian Protection has been practicing the safety measures we are recommending in this post, and much more. We are dedicated to keeping our employees and our customers safe — in our offices, in our fleet of vehicles, and in the homes where we install our smart security systems.
If you’re interested in protecting your world with Guardian, we now have the ability to conduct virtual appointments to lessen the amount of time required inside homes. If you’re interested, give us a call at 1.800.PROTECT (1.800.776.8328) and we’ll set one up together!