The pandemic has reached into nearly every area of our lives, and our careers and work lives are no different. Whether you’ve been furloughed, laid off, or working from home, your work was likely affected by the lockdown.
And now (or soon), the prospect of returning to the workplace is bound to present challenges as well. In particular, you may face new rules and restrictions that have been adopted to keep you, your co-workers, and customers healthy and prevent the virus from spreading. With that in mind, here are some tips to pave the way for your safe return to your workplace.
Prepare Yourself for Potential Pay Cuts
The pandemic has transformed both the business and financial sectors. Departments have been cut, certain sectors have essentially become obsolete, and millions of jobs have disappeared. As a result, the kind of financial security many of us once enjoyed no longer exists for entire swaths of society.
Regardless of your employment situation, you should be ready to face pay cuts and other financial disruptions. Steps you can take to shield yourself from future problems include:
- Saving money for an emergency fund
- Cutting expenses to leave a larger cushion in your savings
- Starting a side gig to bring in more income
- Getting a home warranty to protect you against the expense of major home repairs.
Know Your Rights
All employees have the right to know what their company is doing to keep them safe from the spread of coronavirus. Some companies go above and beyond to make sure their employees are protected and understand the steps being taken to shield them from the virus. These can include:
- Staggering employee shifts to reduce numbers gathered inside the facility.
- Augmented cleaning and disinfecting schedules for common areas.
- Reconfiguration for greater distance between workspaces.
- Providing personal protective equipment such as face masks, disinfecting wipes or sprays, and hand sanitizer.
If your employer hasn’t been clear about how the company plans to protect staff members (as well as customers and other guests), check with management or human resources to find out what methods are being used to keep you safe.
If you’ve taken time away from the everyday work environment, your relationships with co-workers may feel awkward or strained now. Make it a priority to repair these relationships. You and your colleagues will be leaning on one another as you decide how to best navigate the challenges ahead, so it’s imperative that your work connections are in good standing.
Relationships with clients will also require attention. Depending on what type of business you’re in, you may find some clients are hesitant to purchase your goods and/or services. Maybe they’ve gotten out of the habit, or perhaps they’re concerned about spending during these uncertain times.
- Reach out to your customers individually and reassure them you’re still there to meet their needs.
- Consider sending them a care package containing customized hand sanitizer, masks, and a personalized note to show them you value their business.
Cleaning Things Up
Some of us will continue to work from home full time for the foreseeable future. Others will keep working remotely but return to the office on a part-time basis, or one of many permutations between. In any arrangement, as many of us have learned, work requires a level of comfort and adequate space to do the job in peace.
Clearing space for a temporary makeshift office is one thing, but if you find you need to work from home indefinitely, you’ll need a permanent home office setup. Especially if you’ll be working remotely for an extended period, you’ll need to create a space dedicated specifically to your job.
When returning to the workplace, it’s vital to ensure you’re as protected as possible. Many companies are providing their employees with the necessary supplies to do so, but others are struggling to absorb these new costs.
Consider stocking up on your own supply of:
- Face masks
- Hand sanitizer
- Hand soap
- Disinfectant spray or wipes
- Other personal protective equipment (PPE).
Having your own stock of hygiene products on hand can give you peace of mind that you’re safe, regardless of what your company is able to provide.
Protect Your Finances
If you’re still working or will soon be returning to work, you’re among the lucky ones. But no matter how secure your position may seem, during a global health and economic crisis, you need to be prepared to handle financial hardship that might come your way.
Start preparing financially with these steps:
- Create a budget that takes into account your new circumstances.
- Cut your monthly household and discretionary spending wherever possible.
- Divert part of each paycheck into an emergency fund. Experts recommend shooting for an amount equal to 3-6 months’ worth of household rent and bills.
- Consult your credit report, address any errors or discrepancies, and take steps to begin building your credit.
By taking these proactive steps, you can ensure that you’ll have what it takes to handle any unexpected major expenses — or, conversely, to borrow money — if you suddenly lose your income.
Be Prepared for Infrastructure Changes
Although you’ll likely be returning to the same company, there may have been substantial changes in infrastructure during your absence. Social distancing and other changes required to keep you safe may make your workspace unrecognizable.
Several structural or logistical changes may be in play:
- You may find yourself in a different area of the building or campus.
- You may be separated from others by plexiglass or other barriers.
- Fewer workspaces may be in shared offices or common spaces.
- Some former gathering areas may be off-limits.
- The facility may feature new signage to remind employees of safe distancing measures.
You may not be returning to the same comfortable space you occupied prior to the pandemic. Whatever physical changes your employer has made, be prepared to adjust.
There’s plenty you can do to prepare for a safe return to the workplace. In addition to being flexible and receptive to changes your employer has made, you should take your own precautions to remain safe, regardless of what your company provides.
Whatever you’re facing, do your best to keep yourself and others safe, and don’t hesitate to speak up if you believe you’re being put in a situation that’s detrimental to your mental or physical health. By working together with your employer and co-workers, you can ensure that your work environment is safe for you, your colleagues, and your clients.