With COVID more or less easing, is it finally safe to return to the office?

Masked employees in an office
Masked employees in an office. Photo via Pixabay

Since the start of the pandemic, kitchen tables have turned into workstations and virtual meetings have become the norm. But as the pace of COVID-19 vaccinations continues to roll, the number of COVID-19 cases drops from previous outbreak levels and restrictions are lifted, workers and employers are beginning to consider a return to the workplace.

For those who have been working from home for nearly two years, a few questions exist:

  • When will I return to my office?
  • What will it look like?
  • Will it be safe?

When are we going back to work?

The first question is not so easy to answer, as it seems like a constantly moving target. Some companies are taking a wait-and-see approach before announcing an official return.

However, others have announced a return to work in the office. And some have initiated a hybrid return – some days remotely, others onsite.

What will my workplace look like?

The second question offers a more definitive answer. The workplace will be different, at least initially, as more and more people return to the work environment. Although COVID-19 precautions have changed, some workplace guidelines are still in effect.

Per California state guidelines, many workplaces will no longer require face masks indoors, but may strongly recommend them, especially when working near other people. Employees may need to wear masks – made available upon request and at no cost to employees – on employer-provided transportation and during COVID-19 outbreaks, as required by local and state regulations at the time. of the epidemic.

Standard precautions, such as social distancing where possible and frequent hand washing, will also remain in effect. Indoor gatherings, such as eating together or holding meetings at full capacity, are still not recommended. These practices may remain in effect for some time in some environments.

It is also very likely that some workplaces will continue to require the use of masks even after the pandemic has reached endemic levels of spread. This is especially true in health care and long-term care settings, which are at higher risk for transmission of COVID-19.

Will it be safe to return to work?

Both California Department of Public Health and Cal/OSHA require a safe work environment to reduce the risk of COVID-19 infection among employees at work. Therefore, vaccination, testing and an appropriate isolation period when employees are sick may be necessary to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and to ensure that contagious people do not come to work.

The best place to start is to get fully vaccinated, which includes getting a booster shot. Vaccination against COVID-19 helps prevent the spread of COVID-19 and decreases morbidity and mortality in our community. Ask your doctor if it is appropriate to receive a second booster dose and, if so, you should receive it.

While virtual interactions have been great for bringing people together and allowing communication and meetings to continue as part of the business, returning to the workplace will likely be embraced by many, especially for benefits. There is something reassuring and meaningful about dealing with colleagues in person.

Kathy HeadMD, is the Associate Director of Occupational Medicine with Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Group.

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