Should You Return to the Office in 2021? Navigating COVID in the New Year

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COVID in the New Year

As the new year begins and COVID in the New Year vaccines begin distribution, many people are looking forward to the end of the pandemic. Although working from home was a viable option for many employees for a long time, many companies are considering a partial or full return to in-person work.

There are many remaining variables, and the right path for you and your colleagues will vary. A return to work that seems wise right now could backfire if an outbreak occurs in your area before vaccine distribution is completed for COVID in the New Year.

With the right social distancing and considerations for team members’ health and vaccination status, a return to work is possible for some offices in COVID in the New Year. However, as long as you have the right toner supplies at home, you can continue doing your work from the safety of your home office.

Social Distancing Considerations

Indoor social distancing requirements call for maintaining six feet apart at all times, even while wearing masks. Office cubicles are usually at least six feet wide, but sitting in the same air conditioning as an infected person for hours could result in exposure. Meeting rooms are even more hazardous unless each team member has at least two empty chairs between them.

Chokepoints like hallways and bathrooms are more difficult to keep six feet apart in. If your office is small and has many people trying to return to in-person work, consider waiting a few more weeks until your company’s leadership has had time to make and test all safety adjustments.

You can also try staggering your return to work and only coming in on certain days of the week. However, this works best as part of an office-wide scheduling initiative to manage social distancing instead of just letting individuals decide. A good example of this is how some school districts have students come in two days a week and spend the other days online.

Health Risk Factors

It’s difficult to predict who will develop severe complications from COVID-19, and there have been cases of healthy young people ending up in the ICU or dying from symptoms. However, some groups appear to be more at risk of complications than others. Although everyone should do their best to avoid getting sick, these at-risk groups need to stay healthy.

If you or anyone in your household is over 55, is immunocompromised or has preexisting conditions like diabetes, continue working from home until everyone in your residence is vaccinated. Even if your at-risk family members have already caught COVID-19, long-term immunity after infection is still being investigated and sometimes may only last several months.

Convenience of Remote Work

Although remote work had a learning curve, many offices have now completely adjusted. Companies collaborated and streamlined their operations in new ways while cutting out the physical workplace’s stress and distractions.

If remote work is working well for you and you keep Dell printer ink on hand for essential print jobs, then there’s no need to rush back to the office. However, if your job requires at least some in-person work or you’re struggling to adjust to the technology, then it may be beneficial to return sooner.

Have a conversation with your boss and other team members about who, if anyone, truly needs to be in the office to do their job. In some cases, it may make sense to do a partial return to work with some team members only.

Local Outbreaks

The course of the pandemic has varied wildly between states and cities. For companies with offices in multiple cities, it may be much safer for some to return than others.

When considering whether to return to the office, consider both daily new infections and the percentage of tests coming back positive. If more than five percent of daily tests are coming back positive, that may indicate there isn’t enough testing being done in your area and the outbreak is likely worse than it appears on paper. Your state or county health department should release those numbers every weekday.

Vaccination Status

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As vaccines are rolled out to the public, it will gradually become safer for you to return to work. However, since young and healthy nonessential workers are a low priority for receiving the vaccine, it may be months before many office workers get it.

The vaccines currently available are given as two separate doses, three weeks apart. Your doctor can advise you when you should feel safe returning to work after receiving the second dose.

School Reopenings

Many school districts have tried to maintain an in-person option and online teaching option to meet families’ needs. Parents who could work from home often chose online learning for their students, planning to send them back in-person as soon as possible.

However, some schools have discouraged or disallowed families from switching from online to in-person mid-semester. This is mostly because of the logistical difficulties associated with maintaining social distancing between desks in classrooms. This restriction may make it difficult for some parents to return to work between January and June.

Even if you don’t have kids, your colleagues’ chances of contracting COVID in the New Year may increase if their kids are back in school. Local schools’ role in the spread of COVID may shift if new strains appear, so stay vigilant and continue to monitor local infection rates even after returning to in-person work.

Commuting Safely

Although it is a hassle in some areas, commuting by car continues to be the safest option. It becomes even safer if you drive by yourself instead of carpooling with others.

If public transportation is your only means of getting to the office, consider continuing to work from home until the situation subsides or you get the vaccine. Even if your entire team is careful at work, even one unmasked super spreader on the train or bus could put you at risk.

Managing Team Safety

Your team needs to have a strict policy in place for employees staying home and teleworking if they have symptoms or if they’ve been in contact with someone with COVID. Other than this policy, though, the timeline for returning to work varies based on individual needs.

Social distancing and mask policies should continue, and employers should respond to changing office conditions as employees return. With smart leadership and careful attention to local spread, team members should be able to transition back into in-person work within the first half of 2021.

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