Is It Safe to Return to the Office?

For better or worse, workplaces are reopening. Let's assess the risk.

Originally Published: 
Snapshot of a decision tree

In the best of times, decision-making is tough for parents. Raising a well-adjusted, healthy human is complicated

as hell. Toss in the COVID-19 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 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

  • Health: The risk going to the office has on public health and the health of your family.
  • For example, returning to the office means you could pick up COVID at work and bring it home to your family.
  • 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 to impress your boss.
  • Economics: The risk going to the office has on your family’s finances.
  • For example, you may be in a better position for a raise if you return to the office.

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, especially if you’ve gotten a booster.
  • If you’re unvaccinated and anyone in your household is unvaccinated or immunocompromised, 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.

Work From Home

  • Working from home means you’re 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.

The Bottom Line:Making the Decision

Ready to Return to the Office?

  • The company should require vaccination for anyone returning to the office.
  • Employees should screen themselves for COVID symptoms every day.
  • Employees must stay home if they’re sick, and the company can’t punish them for that.
  • Rearrange the workspace so that desks are at least six feet apart.
  • Increase ventilation in the office.
  • Install an air purification system.

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