For many Americans, work from home is now transitioning into a “back to the workplace” model. Some companies may promote work tasks to be conducted completely in person, while others are choosing to engage in a hybrid model of both in-person and via technology.
Regardless, these are NOT normal times, meaning that protocols that have been and should be in place, to ensure the safety of all employees are not normal. Many people are receiving return to work letters and e-mails. Let’s dive into what these mean and the best practices on how you can stay safe.
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Did You Receive a Return to Work Notice?
A return to work notice will give you the date to return and the guidelines and/or required policies put in place surrounding COVID-19 and being in an in-person environment.
Many companies utilize this as an opportunity to share what actions have been instituted to ensure employee safety. It will also list out the required activities employees must engage in upon being in the workplace and some may even extend to preferred behavior for employees when they leave the workplace.
Your return to work notice will likely outline policies and guidelines.
While these terms are often used interchangeably, it is crucial to understand the difference between a policy and a guideline.
A policy is a formalized statement that applies to a specific area and is considered mandatory. For instance, many companies are requiring temperature checks upon arrival, wearing a mask at all times, as well as complying with their state’s orders per their business sector.
Guidelines are specific advice that an employer suggests to keep the work environment safe, but aren’t necessarily mandatory. For example, your employer may suggest checking your temperature before arriving at work or disinfecting yourself and your belongings before interacting with people in your household.
Do You Have To Go Back To Work?
It depends on your job, but most public health agencies are encouraging business leaders to not allow all employees to come back to the workplace at one time. However, this may not be true to all settings such as essential healthcare workers (thank you!).
Depending upon your line of work, leadership level, company policies, and overall at-home productivity, a vast array of factors can play into whether you have to return to the office or place of business.
We encourage you to have discussions about COVID safety with your leadership or HR department. If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it is that it is okay to be vulnerable and cautious. Share your concerns, because you are likely not the only one feeling them.
What if My Workplace Isn’t Following Government Restrictions?
Public Health is in the spotlight right now, but it has been around for years. Many of the practices that are being promoted are called “upstream approaches”, meaning they aim to address the problem up the river before the issue falls off the waterfall. This model asks us to consider the social, economic, and environmental origins of a health issue, rather than just the symptoms or potential outcomes.
Your workplace should be well-informed of the requirements they are to follow. However, if you see that the environment is not fulfilling their end of the bargain, please say something. Confide in your leaders and utilize your resources. Most states have a COVID hotline that will connect you to the right source. You can always refer to the CDC website for best-practices, and understand that this is a learning curve for everyone.
Please see our list of encouraged behaviors to participate in:
- Wear a mask and have a spare one in your workspace.
- Always have sanitizer.
- Practice social distancing in all spaces which includes meetings, kitchenettes and bathrooms.
- Remember that there is added exposure to individuals who have had close contact with people within 6 feet for 15 or greater minutes.
- Comply with temperature checks.
- If you work in a cubicle, ensure that you and your coworkers are spaced out enough, or continue to wear the mask while in your workspace.
- Know your rights as an employee. Please review the necessary documents before going into work again.
- Utilize physical activity, such as walking meetings outside, this can reduce stress and get you out of your closed space.
- Ask about the cleaning protocols within your workplace.
- In times where there seems like nothing but negativity, try listing 5 things every day you are grateful for.
- Recognize your feelings and seek out outlets that address your mental health. Build time into your day to take care of yourself. You cannot pour from an empty cup, so grace yourself with patience and kindness.
While our main goal is to guide you through your finance needs, we hope to help ease up some of the uncertainties out there. Ultimately, getting “back to normal” is going to take time, with many lessons learned and adjustments made along the way. If we wash our hands, wear our masks, and stay patient and kind, we can get through it together!