So, Should I Return to the Office?

Tara Santora
·3 min read

In the best of times, decision-making is tough for parents. Raising a well-adjusted, healthy human is complicated as hell. Toss in a pandemic, economic depression, and social injustice and your most basic choices become stress-inducing nightmares. There are rarely risk-free decisions or one-size-fits-all answers, but there are ways to assess and respond to risk.working from homeCOVID-19 vaccineOccupational Safety and Health Administrationstudy

Using a Risk Assessment Matrix to Make the Office Decision

The higher the total score, the riskier the choice is.The Four Factors

  • Public health: The risk going to the office has on public health.

    • For example, returning to the office means you could pick up the coronavirus at work and bring it home to your family and neighborhood.

  • Psychology: The risk going to the office has on your family’s psychology.

    • For example, trying to work from home while 24/7 parenting takes a mental toll on you and your kid.

  • Career: The risk going to the office has on your career.

    • For example, working from home could mean you miss out on opportunities at work to impress your boss.

  • Economics: The risk going to the office has on your family’s finances.

    • For example, you may not be able to work as many hours if you work from home while helping the kids with remote learning.

The Three Scenarios

Go to the Office

  • If you’re fully vaccinated, going into the office isn’t much of a risk to personal or public health.

  • If you’re unvaccinated and anyone in your household is at high risk for severe COVID-19, going to the office is more of a risk to personal and public health.

  • Only employees who trust their employer to follow and enforce public health guidelines should return to the workplace.

  • Think long and hard about if returning to the office will have any real benefit on your career or ability to get work done.

Hybrid Work Schedule

  • This option — spending half the workweek in the office and half at home — may be ideal for parents with kids on a hybrid school schedule.

  • There is still a COVID-19 risk, but it will be less if the days of the week employees work in the office are staggered.

Work From Home

  • Working from home means you are less likely to get infected by or transmit the coronavirus.

  • Avoiding the office when your boss wants you there could have a negative impact on your career, and some workers have even been fired for refusing to return.

If You’re At High Risk, Keep This in Mind…

If you belong to a group at high risk of severe COVID-19, you may be entitled to work from home by the Americans with Disabilities Act. However, not all at-risk people are covered. And keep in mind that some employees have been fired for refusing to return to the office, even if they did so because they were worried about their health.

The Bottom Line:Making the Decision

Ready to Return to the Office?

  • The company should have a clear return policy in place based on vaccination status.

  • Everyone must wear a mask.

  • The company should remind employees to wash their hands frequently.

  • Employees should screen themselves for COVID-19 symptoms every day.

  • Employees must stay home if they’re sick, and the company can’t punish them for that.

  • Stagger the start of the day, breaks, and end of the day.

  • Rearrange the workspace so that desks are at least six feet apart.

  • Block off common spaces, such as work kitchens.

  • Increase ventilation in the office.

  • Install an air purification system.

  • Continue to hold meetings through video conferencing.

  • Install seats on office toilets so less COVID-19 particles in your feces fly into the air when you flush.

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