#HR Trends and Insights

5 safety tips for returning to the office

April 15, 2022

After two years of working from home, are you heading back to the office? If so, we’ve got some safety tips for you as you return to work.

Learn to check for Covid like it’s the weather

Pre-pandemic, you probably checked the weather to see the temperature or if it was going to rain or snow on your way to work. In the Covid era, you’ll be checking to see the levels of Covid in your community before you head off to work.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has created a new “community level” tracking system to keep track of Covid in our communities. The system looks at three pieces of data: hospitalizations, hospital capacity in the community, and new cases.

The list is compiled by county levels. Green means the level of Covid is low, yellow means medium, and red means high. The CDC only suggests that people wear masks indoors if their community is considered at a high level. The site reminds us that people may choose to wear a mask at any time on their own.

Anyone experiencing Covid symptoms, having a test come back positive, or getting exposed to someone who has a confirmed case of Covid should also wear a mask.

Don’t forget your mask on public transportation

Are you sick of wearing masks? If you ride the subway or other public transportation, you must wear a mask. In late February, the CDC changed the rules and eliminated the mask mandate for buses or vans operated by schools or childcare programs.

However, the rules for public transportation haven’t changed. The CDC guidance says that when you travel on public transportation, you are still at risk of getting and spreading Covid because riders are in close contact. If you’re planning to fly, you still must wear a mask too.

Even though the CDC requires masks on public transportation, medical experts say subways and other transit methods are safe as long as you wear a mask like an N95.

What about masks in the office?

The short answer is yes, a mask in the office is a good thing for many reasons. Employers can mandate that employees wear masks, though it is expected that most won’t, especially with a low Covid count.

The guidelines for wearing a mask are almost the same as during the early days of Covid. If you have an immunocompromised person in your household, you’ll probably want to wear a mask in the office. The same holds if your community rises to the red level of the CDC tracker. If you work close to others and can’t social distance, a mask will probably come in handy.

However, if you are fully vaccinated with booster shots and Covid is not very high in your community, you don’t necessarily need to wear a mask (unless you want to).

Other work-related issues to consider

Another factor to consider is your work colleagues. Are they vaccinated? If your office doesn’t have a vaccine mandate, and they haven’t been vaccinated, it may make people think twice about going to work. The unvaccinated are three to five times more likely to be infected with Covid than those fully vaccinated.

You also want to review the safety measures your employer is taking. Besides vaccine and mask mandates, some employers will be testing regularly. If an office tests people once per week, it increases the chances of finding people with Covid before they contact others. That’s especially important if those who test positive are asymptomatic. Offices set up with social distancing and good ventilation in mind should also make people safer from Covid.

Reduce anxiety

If you are heading back to the office but are concerned about Covid, there are a few things you can do that will help you ease your mind. Dr. Donna O’Shea, chief medical officer of Population Health Management for UnitedHealthcare, urges people to make sure they manage their time to avoid feeling overwhelmed. She also recommends that people exercise regularly and make sleep, healthy meals, and drinking water priorities. Meditation or other breathing exercises may help keep anxiety levels low.

If you’re an employer, there are many ways to help your employees transition back to the office. Commuter benefits allows them to spend up to $280 tax-free per month to pay towards their commute by mass transit, rideshares, or qualified parking.

Edenred’s Ticket Restaurant is also a great benefit to help employees eat healthy. Employees get to eat at restaurants, use food delivery apps, and shop at grocery stores thanks to their employers who pay for meals. Ticket Restaurant works for both employees working in the office or at home.

Edenred also offers Lifestyle Spending Accounts so employers can provide a high-quality wellness program for employees. The accounts offer everything from physical health to pet care.

Do you want to help your employees as they return to the office? All these benefits options can do that. Schedule a meeting with us today so we can help you get started.

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