Civilization is coming back to life. How do I know this? One sign was seeing humans yesterday. Each day for the past eight weeks during this whole COVID-19 shelter in place, I’ve checked our mailbox in the afternoon. I open the front gate, look both ways before crossing the road, check the mailbox and return back through the gate.
Yesterday I almost forgot what to do. As I was getting ready to return back across the road and to the gate, I heard a sound. That hum grew louder. I looked down the road to my right and spotted the source of the hum. There was a car. Two of them, actually. Who were they, and where did they come from? I hadn’t seen a car during my daily mail routine for two months. I had to tell myself out loud to stop and not cross because my muscle memory was telling me to go ahead and cross the street as usual. In that moment of pausing for the two vehicles to pass me by, I realized that life was about to change again.
First off, our state had begun to re-open on May 8. Retail and restaurants could start operating at 25% capacity. Between cabin fever and Mother’s Day weekend, people started getting out and about. Humans were exiting their hibernation chambers and venturing out into the world we had pretty much shut out since mid-March. Secondly, when I arrived back on my porch and glanced at my reflection in the window, I realized that my go-to of comfortable attire was going to have to be retired as more humans emerged. I was wearing a hot pink sun hat, a grey t-shirt with white lettering that read “Badass Learner, IBM Think Academy,” red and blue plaid boxer shorts decorated with white Texas A&M and Ol’ Sarge symbols, white tube socks pulled half-way to my knees to protect me from bug bites, and black tennis shoes.
As you transition back into the physical world and back to working onsite, you might have to consider more than just adjusting your mail routine, watching for traffic, and putting effort into your wardrobe choices. Here are some more serious considerations to take into account when you transition back to working onsite:
- Can you remain at home? If you’ve adjusted to working at home, and you found it to be more productive and/or cost effective, can you continue to work remotely?
- Will your work schedule change? If it changed when you began working from home, will it stay the same when you return to onsite? Will adjustments need to be made if you’re able to continue working from home but others in your office return to the office, or vice versa?
- Will your furlough status change? If you were working five days a week but only getting paid for four “temporarily” until the situation settled, will your company return to paying you for all the time you work? If not, can you scale back on work?
- What time adjustments will need to be made? You’ve spent anywhere from the last four to 12 weeks in a new schedule. If anything about your location or schedule changes now, what are the domino effects? Will you have to make other adjustments in your professional or personal schedule?
- Who will watch your kids? If you have to return to onsite work but your children’s school will remain closed until the end of the year, who will care for them? Can you team up with neighbors, family or co-workers to come up with a shared childcare plan? Is your company willing to open an onsite daycare (meeting federal, state, local and CDC guidelines) if your regular daycare or preschool will not open until the fall?
- What does summer childcare look like? When “summer break” officially starts, will your regular childcare option be available? If not, what options do you have? Thinking ahead, if your child’s school remains virtual in the fall, what are your contingency plans for this?
- What new habits do you want to continue? Did you have family game nights while sheltering in place? Did you find a more efficient way to complete work or personal tasks? What new good habits or routines do you want to be sure to keep implementing?
- What adjustments will you need to make because of COVID-19 guidelines in your office? Will you need to wear a mask at all times? Will you need to arrive earlier because you’ll have to be screened for fever or symptoms before being allowed into the building? Will you need to supply your own sanitizer and wipes, or will your company provide these supplies? Will you have to vacate the premises at certain times in order to allow crews to sanitize? Will you have to scale back your in-person meeting size because of distancing mandates? Does it make sense to open up your office if only a few of you can be present at any given time? What procedures are in place so that if another outbreak strikes, you can transition seamlessly into working virtually once again?
The intent of these questions is not to create alarm or panic. Quite the opposite. There was uncertainty when we first entered this “new normal” situation, and there will be uncertainty for quite some time. Forward-thinking companies will have already been milling all of this over and coming up with ideas to share with their employees. In the event that you are not employed by a company that plans strategically, you can take the initiative and start these conversations with your family and co-workers. The more you plan for possible scenarios, the more quickly you‘ll be able to respond to any given situation, and the more rapidly you’ll be able to get back on track. This is how you will stay productive.