How to prepare to go back to the office after quarantine

 


Key points: 

  • Some employees have been called back to the office as more businesses reopen 
  • Since the virus is still out there, and there is still no cure, it is vital to take all the necessary precautions so we don’t create a second wave of COVID-19 cases 
  • Basic reminders are to keep distance, practice proper cough etiquette, wear a face mask, and wash hands frequently 
  • It is also important to improve our mental resilience by understanding what are fears are, what we can control, and how to properly manage stress 
  • Our health should be a top priority while we are in the middle of a global health crisis. We must exercise and eat right, especially now 

 

As quarantine has begun to ease up in most parts of the country and some businesses have re-opened, a lot of us might be preparing to go back to the office (or are already there). While the outbreak is still far from being truly over, businesses have had to reopen to help the country’s economy. While the virus is still out there, it’s important to take the necessary precautions so we ensure that we don’t create a second wave of COVID-19 cases as we return to our offices. 

If at all possible, it’s best to still work from home to mitigate any unnecessary risks to our health and safety. But if you have no choice and need to return to the office, here are some tips to help you prepare to go back to work after quarantine. 

 

THE BASICS 

We have been hearing these things constantly during this outbreak, but it’s important to reiterate because they are few of the only ways we will be able to control the further spread of COVID-19. 

 

I need space 

Remember to keep your distance! The DTI and DOLE Interim Guidelines on Workplace Prevention and Control of COVID-19 suggests keeping 1m away from other people. This is a 1m radial distance - meaning front, back, left, and right.  

Try not to sit directly in front of each other and right beside each other during meetings, when eating, or on any shared workspace. Arrange yourselves to give each other some space. Remind your co-workers this, especially those who just love to stay close to you. It’s nothing personal, we all just need a little space for now. 

 

Practice proper cough etiquette 

Numerous studies and trials have shown that the virus can stay airborne. Apart from that, a study from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) states that coughing can spread droplets as far as six meters, while sneezing can spread droplets as far as eight. Add in the fact that these droplets can stay suspended in the air for up to 10 minutes, and you’ve got a risky situation. 

This is why since the start of this outbreak, we have been reminded to cough on a paper towel or on your elbow if a paper towel isn’t available. We don’t know who’s carrying the virus so if you feel that itch in your throat, reach for that paper towel and cover your mouth. 

 

Face mask at all times 

Some cities have mandated the use of face mask when in public. While there is still debate as to whether or not a mask will protect you from the virus, what is clear is that it will at least keep your germs from spreading. You won’t really know if you have the virus unless you take a test, so let’s do our part in keeping everyone safe and wear a mask. 

 

Wash, wash, wash 

By now you’ve probably heard it a million times – wash your hands frequently. 20 seconds, or two “happy birthdays”. While we didn't need to be too careful while we were locked up at home, going back to the office means exposing your touching hands to all kinds of public items. That office door knob, the desk, the bathroom door, the pen to sign papers, etc. All those items have the possibility to carry the virus. 

A virologist in Belgium told his children in a letter he sent when the pandemic started, to keep your hands below your shoulders. This is so you don’t touch your face. So, when you’re in the office, keep your hands below your shoulders, wash your hands frequently, keep your distance, and keep your face mask on.  

 

 

IMPROVING METAL RESILIENCE 

There’s no denying that the past few months have been difficult for everybody – it still is. Most of our lives have been turned upside down and our routines and comforts we were so used to have been stripped away to make room for this “new normal". To help us through, we have to improve our mental resilience.  

 

What can you control? 

We hear this mantra time, and time again - “focus on what you can control and not on what you can’t”. This rings true now more than ever when almost everything feels beyond our control. But in order to move forward, you have to remember, and EMBRACE, this mantra.  

You might not be able to control whether or not you go to the office, but you can wear a mask, keep your distance, and practice good personal hygiene to reduce the risks if you DO have to report back to the office. You might not be able to control being put on forced leave or reduced work, but you can find a part-time job to supplement your income or develop your skills in the meantime.  

Instead of worrying or focusing on negative thoughts that will lead to underproductivity and maybe even unhappiness, focus your energy in finding ways that you can avoid the negative impacts of the outbreak on not just your personal life but on your career as well. 

 

What are you scared of? 

They say when you know what you are afraid of, you can face it and conquer it. If you’re worried about the commute to work, maybe you can organize a carpool between you and your colleagues who live near, or suggest a company shuttle. If you are afraid of getting the virus while you’re in the office, list down precautionary measures you can take (see “THE BASICS" in the first part of this article). If you’re scared of losing your job, work harder or take proactive steps to find a new, more stable job, or a part-time job as backup.  

This goes back to the point of focusing on what you can control. Identify what you’re scared of and then figure out what tangible things you can do to control that fear. This will help keep you more resilient as our situation progresses. 

 

How are you managing stress? 

Stress has been shown to lower your immune system. If you have to go back to the office, you really need a strong immune system to fight any viral invaders. One of the ways is to manage your stress. Again, go back to focusing on what you can control and knowing what you’re afraid of. 

Another way to manage stress is to be PROPERLY informed. There is a big collection of fake news available on social media so you need to be critical of how you consume information. Choose your sources carefully and take what you read with a grain of salt.  

While it’s good to be informed, know also when to turn off. It’s easy to get immersed in news and headlines for hours until all you can think of is the doom and gloom of the world. Take time to see your favorite dog page on Instagram or watch some funny videos on YouTube. Get in your daily dose of smiles and laughter too. 

Find ways to manage stress every day, whether it’s through exercise, Netfilx and Chill, chatting with friends, or indulging in your favorite hobbies. 

  

KEEPING HEALTHY 

While we’re on the topic of managing stress, let’s talk about keeping healthy. Our health is probably at its most critical right now because we are in the middle of a global health crisis. We’ve seen news where even healthy people have gotten sick from COVID-19, so now, more than ever, must we put a strong emphasis on our health. Again, returning to the office means you have to improve your health and strengthen your immune system. 

 

Exercise and eat healthy 

It’s back to basics here but we need to reiterate – get in some exercise and eat your greens! Your workouts don’t have to be hour long sweat sessions. Even 15-minutes a day will work or just walking around more. I’m sure a lot of us have gotten used to not moving so much since the start of quarantine – there's only so many places in your house that you can visit. 

Get your body moving and back in shape. Have a serving of vegetables with every meal, have some fruit daily, and reduce your salt and sugar intake. All the things we already know we need to seriously apply. If you’re going out into the world so you can work, KEEP YOURSELF HEALTHY! 

 

Don’t forget your mental health too 

We’ve already given a number of pointers here previously, but again, we have to reiterate the importance of your mental health. Increase your mental resilience and manage stress to keep your immune system strong! 

Returning to the office has both positive and negative implications. Yes, businesses reopening and employees returning to work can help our economy, but the virus is still out there. If you have the option, stay at home! But if returning to the office is mandatory, remember to follow these tips.  

Keep safe out in the world! 

  

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