Like so many others, 2021 began with me working from home. I relished the experience and would jump at the opportunity to do it again – not that I want a 3rd wave pandemic to be the cause – but I thrived in that environment. Not only was I able to connect with and guide those I worked in partnership on their career journey’s, I voluntarily gave my employer more hours of service than I was compensated for. Good for the employer, good for people working with me, good for everyone all around.
However, as was always to be the case, the inevitable return to the office came about and for me it was Monday of this week. So, having been back for a week now, I feel the time is right to share a little of the experience being back, hoping that a recounting and sharing might be helpful for readers who have a looming return to their workplace.
I must say, an odd feeling came over me once a specific date was announced as a return to the office. I mean, working with and on behalf of people my entire life, service to others is what I’m all about. Yet, there I was, not entirely comfortable with the idea of meeting and interacting in person with people I’d come to know as co-workers and the general public. That alien feeling was present, though not to a degree that it had me contemplating any kind of fight to remain working at home. Seeing the bigger picture, a return to in-person service was always the plan, and I knew it was the intent of my employer to return to this as a normal way of practice.
My thoughts ranged from how to handle initial encounters with colleagues. Hands would I hoped, not be extended to shake, and hugs I trusted, would be completely discouraged. Not that I’m against either practice in, ‘normal’ times, but we are after all, still not completely out of the woods and back to everything as it once was. I started thinking of my physical workspace, being as it is located in a common room with no walls except the one behind me, and open to people on three sides, used by the public and colleagues alike.
My concerns were and remain legitimate and real. Being 62 and a type 2 diabetic, I have additional cause to keep myself protected as much as possible, not only safeguarding myself but also for family, friends etc. I wondered about and hoped that colleagues were taking necessary precautions and being as vigilant as I was to protect not only themselves, but me in the process.
So there I was on Monday, back in the office along with the entire organization, standing in our Resource Centre, welcomed back by our Executive Director. It’s got to be satisfying at that level to see all your staff back in one place, healthy and safe, and taking the next step to normal business operations. The public still can’t walk in for service – not yet – but they will in time and this staged re-opening allows everyone to ease into the environment and familiarize themselves with not only known colleagues, but also the half dozen or so hired during the closure of the office whom we’ve only met online.
Now 5 days in, I’m happy to report that colleagues are still taking the proper precautions; physically distancing themselves, using hand sanitizer frequently, wearing masks properly and having their temperatures taken upon arriving at work. People knocking on our doors are being either politely informed we aren’t open to the public, or if they do have a scheduled appointment, they are duly screened at the door.
All of the above has me feeling safe and secure, and that translates to allowing me to focus on the work I’m here to do. Much better than feeling anxious, cautious, and only focusing 60% or so on work while looking furtively around, suspicious of everyone and feeling a need to look out for myself because no one else cares to. That would not be a positive experience.
Now to you.
I’ve no idea how you feel about an impending return to your workplace; be it office, warehouse, store etc. My hope for you is that you come to have the same level of high confidence in the leadership there as I have where I work. It’s everyone’s responsibility to ensure that we’re all safe. Sure employers have a larger responsibility, but as my Executive Director said to us all on Monday, “if you see someone not wearing their mask properly, just say, “mask up please”.
Health and Safety Committees abound in many organizations, and in addition to checking on hazards in the workplace, one of their roles is also going to be checking in and responding to concerns staff may have directly related to protocols around Covid-19 pandemic safeguards. If we all take safeguards seriously and do our part as directed by our Health Units, we maximize our chances of working safely and preventing illnesses, or a return to some further closures in another wave.
May we all feel safe, protected and come to feel comfortable in our return to workplaces be they new to us or old familiar haunts.