Snap back to reality

Is it safe to work in an office building again?

A sense of dread overcame me when the director made the announcement. The company has decided that the first day in April (yes, April Fool’s Day) is when all staff (employees and consultants) must start working from a corporate office. Is it safe to work in an office building again? I have to admit this is a question I’ve been asking myself a lot since the announcement. While the pandemic distancing and masking requirements are being rescinded, COVID is still spreading.

Before the global pandemic, I worked from home two days a week. Since March 11, 2020, , I have worked full time from my home office. There is no stress of a daily commute. My house has all the things I need to feel safe and comfortable. I chose the chair, the desk, and the tchotchkes that adorn my desk. At home, I get to select the room temperature. I make coffee from freshly ground beans each morning, then sit and listen to music while catching up on the latest technology news; I play catch with our cat or stare out the window at the birds at the feeder. I don’t have to be concerned about what I wear. A collared shirt is all I need up top. I can wear whatever I want down below. When I need a break, I can grab lunch from my kitchen, then sit and catch up on a Netflix show or talk to our cat. I can take a nap or have lunch with my wife or outside at a local restaurant with a friend when the weather is suitable. All these will be lost when I return to the old normal.

I knew in the back of my mind that at some point, the (mostly) men who run these corporations would resort to their 1950s way of doing things, back to the old normal, back to thinking employees can only be productive when sitting in a corporate office. But SARS variants that were around back then weren’t as contagious. The Delta and Omicron variants spread more quickly. The thought of sitting inside an office building where my risk of COVID-19 infection is higher and then bringing that home to my family scares me. Because of social distancing and facemask mandates, No family member has been sick, not even with the yearly flu. We should all be that lucky.

I don't think employers have made a clear case of the advantages (to the company and staff) of being at the office compared to working remotely.

I am vaccinated, and I’ve had the booster, but one can still get very sick. I will not know if I (or Bhavna or Shaan) have an underlying health issue that can cause a problem until I get COVID. Maybe I am being overly anxious, but I can’t help it. We have been told we will get COVID eventually, but I’m unsure. However, while I might end up with COVID, that doesn’t mean I should go out of my way to catch it. I think one thing that scares me is Public Transport. We must wear masks on all public transportation, but I know some people won’t, and I get anxious wearing a face covering. After thirty minutes, I start to feel claustrophobic.

I want to work from home permanently. But how do I get what I want?

Is it safe to work in an office building again?

The difference between shelter-in-place, physical distancing, quarantine and self-isolation

Let me get this off my chest. Too many ignorant people are using the terms self-isolation, social distancing, quarantine, and shelter-in-place interchangeably. These terms have specific meanings and are not interchangeable.

Here are the CDC and government-defined terms. Do not make up your own meanings and learn to use these word carefully. It leads to confusion and the spread of misinformation and has consequences.

  • Isolation means the separation of a person or group of people known or reasonably believed to be infected with a communicable disease and potentially infectious from those who are not infected to prevent the spread of the communicable disease. Isolation for public health purposes may be voluntary or compelled by federal, state, or local public health order.

  • Social distancing means remaining out of congregate settings, avoiding mass gatherings, and maintaining distance (approximately 6 feet or 2 meters) from others when possible.

  • Quarantine in general means the separation of a person or group of people reasonably believed to have been exposed to a communicable disease but not yet symptomatic, from others who have not been so exposed, to prevent the possible spread of the communicable disease.

  • To Shelter-in-Place means to remain in your home or workplace during an emergency, and protect yourself there.