The New Normal: Coming Back to Work During COVID-19

Posted on June 2, 2020 by Marsha Molinari, MSW, LICSW

Updated June 3, 2020

Stay Safe blocks_smallWe are living in a constantly changing world where uncertainty is what can be expected. Regardless of your work situation, it is a time of increased fear and anxiety about what is to come. One thing that is certain is that the feeling of fear and anxiety is universal. In this time of uncertainty, it is important to take care of yourself. One common theme I am hearing is “I feel I have no control.” To say that I understand your feeling of being out of control would be a dismissive statement on my part. In writing this article, my hope is to help you recognize that you do have some control over taking measures to lower your risk of being exposed. It is normal to be worried, anxious and fearful of returning to work. Taking every precaution to protect yourself and your family will help give you a sense of control.

Whether you are already back at work or are being called back soon, this article applies to you. Know that your employer has your safety in mind as well. There are a few things that you can do that will help you feel that sense of some control.

  • Know, in advance, your employer’s plan to lower the risk of being exposed/infected.
    • What is the plan to assure social distancing such as relocating workstations and minimizing traffic in your area
    • What is the plan to reduce the number of people in one area?
    • Are they planning to stagger work hours?
    • What is the plan for regular cleaning and disinfecting of common areas and who is responsible for this? This includes meeting rooms, door handles, elevator buttons, phones, light switches, faucets, etc.
    • Is the wearing of masks and gloves mandatory and, if so, how is that being enforced?
  • Develop a personal plan of action. Write it down and stick to it. Do not rely on others.
    • Honor your own definition of distancing—keep a distance from anyone who is not wearing a mask.
    • Supply your own masks and gloves and do not be afraid to use them.
    • Supply your own hand sanitizer and disinfectant and clean your area on a regular frequency.
    • Wipe off common areas such as phones, door handles, faucets, elevator buttons and light switches before and after touching.
    • Keep you cell phone on you and wipe clean before and after leaving the office.
    • Take your breaks and plan where and when to take them. Pace yourself.
    • Know what to do if you see someone, in the area, that you do not recognize.
    • Shower as soon as you get home and, if possible, take off your work clothes in the garage.
    • Know your rights.
    • Of course, remember to wash your hands frequently.
  • Develop a safety plan with your family, children included, if you become exposed.
    • Prepare a space where you can quarantine that is comfortable and where your needs can be met.
    • Practice your plan with your family, including your children.
    • Have an efficient plan to communicate with all of your family members.
    • If you live alone, decide on a plan with a family member or trusted neighbor.
    • Do not think you have to do this alone.

Do’s and don’ts during this crisis.

  1. Know what your personal signs of stress are. How do you care for yourself when you are experiencing stress? Are you providing yourself the things that you need to feel physiologically safe? Do maintain a healthy diet, exercise, and get good sleep. Do not allow yourself to get into habits of junk food eating, staying up late or sleeping in. Do not consume alcohol on a more regular basis. Do drink plenty of water.
  2. Pause a few minutes throughout the day to check in with yourself. How are you doing physically, emotionally and mentally? Do allow yourself to take breaks—step outside, call someone or listen to relaxing music. Stay grounded and breathe. Do not spend a lot of time on social media or listening to the news. Do pause and listen to what you need. The answers are with in you.
  3. Seek resources that fit your basic needs. Take your breaks, go to a quiet place, listen to a relaxation application such as Headspace or Calm. Do not put pressure on yourself to be perfect.
  4. Do not judge yourself or others.

The goal today is to get back to some feeling of normalcy in a safe environment. We are all part of accomplishing this goal but not at the expense of our own sense of well being. As you take time to consider what your needs are know that other’s ways of meeting their needs will look different. Focusing on yourself and meeting yourself where you are at any given moment is the healthiest way of caring for yourself.

Do the simple things. Be hopeful. You will get through this.


We Can Help

Contact us through your VITAL WorkLife App or call 800.383.1908 to access the resources available to you and your family members. Whether it’s in-the-moment telephonic support to talkthrough any stressors/anxieties or setting up face-to-face or virtual counseling sessions, we are here for you!

If you are interested in learning more about our Employee Assistance program support the well being of your employees and their family members, click HERE

Additional Resources:
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Coronavirus Disease 2019. Manage Anxiety and Stress.
  • Entis, L. (May 08, 2020) Go Back to Work While COVID-19 Is Still Spreading.
  • Haseltine, W. (April 23, 2020) This Is How You Can Return to Work Safely.
  • How to Ground Yourself/9 Powerful Grounding Techniques. 
  • Singh, P. (April 8, 2020). Abraham Maslow’s ‘Hierarchy of Needs’ Becomes Even More Relevant in the Era of COVIV-19.

Interested in learning more?

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