Millions of people are ready to go back to work. Because of limited income, many need to work for financial security. Across the nation, state restrictions imposed during the COVID-19 pandemic are slowly being lifted so people can return to work and socialize outside the home.

The White House has announced a three-phased approach to reopening. These guidelines are based on the states being able to fulfill the following criteria: the trajectory of reported symptoms, the trajectory of reported cases, and the ability of hospitals to care for patients and provide ongoing testing.

Many work environments changed in mid-March as the threat of COVID-19 spread. People have adjusted to a new way of living and working. Parents have been working remotely while becoming involuntary home teachers because of school closings. Some who have been working from home are now beginning to transition back to offices and other workplaces.

While working at home, many have discovered that in tough times they have had an opportunity to build stronger relationships that could foster improved work experiences. This indicates that workers will probably rely more on each other to achieve overall common goals for their organizations and institutions.

As people return to work, caution needs to be practiced in the workplace—and it starts with each employee. There is growing concern that there will be a second wave of virus infection cases later this year. Because of this concern, follow these best practices to help protect yourself and others.

Disinfecting and Sanitizing

Before you return, make sure that your workplace has been disinfected. Each day, employees should sanitize shared telephones, restrooms, breakroom sinks, and handles on stoves, microwaves, and refrigerators; copier and fax machine screens after each use and in individual offices; and office entrance and exit doorknobs and handles. Conference rooms that are used daily should also be disinfected.

Consistent Hand Washing

All employees should wash their hands regularly to avoid picking up germs when touching items that a coworker may have forgotten to sanitize. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), wash hands with soap for a minimum of 20 seconds. For more details about handwashing, visit the CDC website. Also, keep hand sanitizer for immediate use or when you can’t wash your hands with soap and water.

Wearing a Mask

Make sure to wear a mask to work. Masks protect others from you and vice versa. It’s okay to remove your mask when you are in your office alone. When you are in other parts of the building around coworkers, you should wear your mask and remain at least 6 feet apart. This indicates that you are practicing social distancing and decreasing your chances of getting COVID-19.

Communicating with Coworkers and Clients

Limit the number of people you socialize with in the office. When possible, communicate using virtual meeting tools such as phone and teleconferencing rather than in-person meetings. Limit group face-to-face meetings to 10 or fewer people, according to local, state, and federal guidelines. Keep face-to-face meetings with coworkers or clients short to limit exposure time. Discourage lingering and socializing before and after meetings.

Using Vending Machines

If you have a vending machine in the workplace, use gloves or a disinfectant wipe before using. Wipe surfaces after use to protect the individual who will access the machine after you. We have to work together to protect each other.

As we gradually return to work, there is an excellent takeaway for all of us: Let go—the kind of workplace we originally signed up for does not exist anymore. Coronavirus means that we are in this together.

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