Returning to work after COVID

Navigating the changes to come

BY JASON STEVENS

OCTOBER 11, 2021

return-to-work-post-covid desktop

The time has come. After the 2020 coronavirus lockdown, Americans are receiving vaccines and employers are considering a return to the workplace. Some companies that have had work-from-home success may decide to continue the trend, but many others are ready to once again embrace the in-office dynamic. You may have some reservations about getting back to “normal” if your company is the latter. We’ve compiled some tips to help ease your mind and keep your physical and mental health in check.

Practice preventative measures

Despite the distribution of vaccinations, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still recommends all the same basic practices, such as wearing a mask, maintaining a 6-foot distance, avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated spaces, frequent hand washing, sanitizing surfaces daily, and staying on the lookout for COVID-19 symptoms exhibited by you, coworkers, or family members.

Here are other preventative strategies to consider:

  • Minimize the number of people with whom you’re in contact. Consider conducting meetings virtually to limit the number of in-person interactions when possible.

  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth if you’re in a community office space.

  • Wash hands before returning to your workspace, and sanitize potential high-germ items on your desk, such as your keyboard, mouse, and phone.

  • Avoid using items, such as the phone, in a fellow employees’ work area, and if someone uses your workstation, sanitize the area after they leave.

  • Ask your supervisor about company strategies, policies, and procedures to keep the office safe and the protocols should you or a fellow employee contract COVID-19.

Meal-prep to reduce germ exposure

An office lunch or a coworker picking up your order from a restaurant down the street may not be ideal after you return to work post-COVID, so consider meal prepping for the week. For example, plan a larger Sunday and Wednesday dinner so you have leftovers for lunch, or stock your fridge with easy ingredients for healthy meals like refreshing watermelon and feta salad or kale and chicken low-carb wraps. Just don’t forget to sanitize your office or dining space before you eat.

Rethink your work wardrobe

Many companies required a specific office dress code before the pandemic, but some workplaces are now taking a more laid-back approach. The added stress of returning to the workplace has made many employers consider a more lenient dress code to provide an extra level of comfort for workers. When making plans to return to the office, ask your company about changes to the dress code. You may find “business casual” is more casual and less business, meaning you can dress as comfortably or trendy as you like.

Maintain your mental health

Americans recognize the importance of good mental health now more than ever. As offices reopen, anxiety and other emotions may increase, which adds to regular workplace stressors. To avoid burnout, be aware of these symptoms:

  • Irritation

  • Anger

  • Anxiety

  • Lack of motivation

  • Depression

  • Trouble concentrating or sleeping

If you’re experiencing these emotions:

  • Share concerns with your coworkers, supervisors, or human resource officers. Work together to identify and resolve COVID-related workplace issues.

  • Ask about potential mental health resources your company may offer.

  • Identify variables over which you have no control, and work with a mental health professional to determine a solution or healthy coping mechanism.

  • Establish healthy, uplifting daily routines or activities, such as a mid-afternoon yoga break, a regular sleep schedule, or a peaceful walk with the family after dinner.

  • Practice mindfulness and gratitude each day.

  • Schedule self-care time during non-work hours.

  • Ask questions and push for protocols if your company’s COVID procedures and policies are lacking.

  • Communicate about any personal health issues. Privately confide in your supervisor or HR manager, so they can plan appropriately for your circumstances. Ask about potential work-from-home options or modified responsibilities to help limit your exposure.

  • Know the facts about COVID-19 so you can better protect yourself and those around you. There’s plenty of misinformation out there, so look to reputable sources for accurate, unbiased information.

  • Get help. Contact your medical provider or a trained therapist to discuss your options. If you need immediate assistance in a crisis, contact 911, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, or the Veterans Crisis Line.

Protect your home after you return to work

Since you’ve been in your home more than normal, your leave-the-house routine is likely a bit rusty. Did you remember to lock the doors? Did you turn off the coffee pot? You also may worry about the kids getting home from school when you’re not there to greet them.

For more information on home security options that can give you peace of mind when you return to work, visit the Brinks Home™ Smart Center.

Jason Stevens is a senior writer for Brinks Home. He is a "tech guy" who enjoys sharing home security and automation tips with others.

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