Many of us are starting to transition back to our official offices, leaving our dining rooms, bedrooms, and basements behind. Here are some things to think about to make that transition as smooth as possible:
• What exactly is your organization’s transition plan? Ask your manager for the specific plan if it is not clear. When do you return to work? Does everyone return to work at the same time? Are plans different in different departments? For different people? Is there any flexibility? If so, what exactly is that flexibility?
• What are the plans to manage your health and safety? Will you be screened upon coming to work? If so, how? Are you able to wear a mask if you want to? Are you required to? Do you supply your own or will your organization provide one? If your organization is providing a face covering, how many? What about social distancing? Will you be able to use breakrooms? Cafeterias? Cubical areas? Elevators? Under what conditions? If you have direct contact with the public, what considerations are in place to maximize your safety and health?
• What did you accomplishment while sheltering in place? You may want to consider preparing a report so that your manager has your accomplishments in hand; be sure to keep a copy for yourself.
• Do you need reasonable accommodation? Are you over 65? Have an underlying health condition? If you believe that you might need reasonable accommodation to return to work (or if you believe returning to work might exacerbate a health concern), obtain a copy of your organization’s policies on requesting reasonable accommodation to ensure you know how to request it. You’ll also need to make an appointment with your medical provider as requests for reasonable accommodation generally need to be accompanied by medical documentation.
• What about medical confidentiality? Your employer should be safeguarding your medical information and all medical information should be stored separately from normal personnel files. If you have questions about the specifics, you should consult with your organization’s Human Resources (HR) Office, medical office, or similar function.
• Can you refuse to return to work if you feel unsafe? What if schools and childcare programs are still closed? In most cases, you’ll need to return to work. In some cases, you may be eligible for extended time-off. You should work with your HR representative to determine what is applicable in your particular situation.
The transition back to the office, whether it is now, or in a couple of months, is tricky for all of us. The best course of action is to be prepared, make sure you understand the new “normal,” and ask questions of your supervisor if you are unsure. Stay safe and healthy!