Nervous About Returning To Work During The Pandemic?

As part of Northwell Health Physician Partners, we at Westchester Health would like to share the following article from Northwell Health written by Debra Spicehandler, MD, Infectious Disease Specialist, concerning aspects of the COVID-19 outbreak. 

In brief, the article discusses:

  • How to determine whether it is safe to return to work
  • Workplace factors to consider
  • Learn what protections your employer has put in place
  • What personal precautions you can take
  • Be honest with your employer about how you’re feeling
  • Do what is right for you

The full article is reproduced below.


Nervous About Going Back To Work In A Pandemic?

An infectious disease specialist offers advice on making your return to the office as safe as possible.

Dear Doctor,

Like thousands of Americans, I’m being asked to go back to work. With the pandemic far from over, how can I protect myself and my family?


“Worried About Work”

Dear Worried:

This is a very tough situation. It is such an uncertain time, so it makes sense that you would feel uncertainty and concern about going back to the workplace right now. While it’s true that many employers are figuring this out as they go, there are questions you can ask of them, and of yourself, to help you determine whether it is safe to return to work.

There are several factors to be considered. What kind of workspace do you have? Is it an open space, or individual office? How far from the next person are you? What is the ventilation in your office?

Find out what protections your employer has put in place. Are there hand sanitizers? Can you wear a mask at your desk? Are they spacing employee workspaces out to adhere to social distancing guidelines? What is the plan for housekeeping and cleaning?

My advice is, if you’re able to socially distance in adequate space—with hand sanitizer and good ventilation—then it can be OK. But it’s a tough call. Plenty of health care providers have been working at hospitals and wearing PPE, and we’ve been doing all right. But it all depends on the setting of your office and the precautions that your employer is or isn’t taking.

You, of course, can take your own precautions. Wash your hands. Wear your mask. Don’t worry about gloves; they can actually spread more germs. Clean your space frequently.

And remember that you’re not alone. There are a lot of people who are afraid, and they have reason to be afraid. There are people with risk factors—high blood pressure, being overweight, caring for at-risk family members, and the like. They can be uncomfortable, anxious, and want to work from home. If that’s your situation, and it is possible for you to complete your duties from home, it would be worth exploring a work-from-home situation.

Be honest with your employer about how you’re feeling. Because if you go to work while feeling anxious, you’re not going to do as good of a job. Employers have to be flexible and listen to their employees about their feelings—if they’re not being accommodating, that’s a problem. Remind them of what’s happening in states that have quickly reopened. Look at the science.

We don’t know when there will be a vaccine or preventive medicine, so, ultimately, you have to do what is right for you.

Learn what Westchester Health is doing to protect our patients and staff against COVID-19

We are here to provide the care you need, when you need it. To learn what precautions we’re taking to minimize the spread of COVID-19 and keep you safe, visit our Coronavirus Digital Resource Center. To learn how we’re responding to the outbreak and what to do if you’re feeling sick, visit our FAQ page (frequently asked questions). Whenever, wherever you need us, we’re here for you.

by Blog