After months of adjusting to working from home and learning to be less distracted by household tasks and children, many offices around the country are starting to bring people back.

This might be just as stressful a proposition as when you started working from home. That’s understandable! Things have been fluid and changing day-by-day for the past several months, and it might be hard to know what’s safe and what isn’t.

Let’s address some of the questions you might have as you prepare to go back to work in the office — or what to do if you can’t return because your children aren’t back in school yet.

What if I’m not ready to come back?

If ever there was a year for serious, personal conversations with your manager, this is it. Be honest about your concerns, your limitations, what’s keeping you up at night. Lay it all out. If you feel that working from home is still your best option — due to childcare issues or ones about your health — be prepared to make that argument and develop a list of suggestions for how you can be effective while staying remote. Have a timeline in mind for when you think you’ll be ready to physically rejoin the team. Be honest and straightforward.

Is my workplace safe?

Depending on the work you do, you might have concerns about sanitization and the ability to keep everyone as safe as possible. Ask your manager or boss what kind of protocols are in place for workplace safety: Will everyone be required to wear masks? Will all employees be screened upon arrival? Will there be hand sanitizer stations throughout the building? What about guests? If you have concerns that are proven true upon returning to work, you might be able to build a case for unemployment due to unsafe conditions.

What if someone gets sick?

Most companies should have emergency protocols in place for dealing with COVID-19-related illnesses. Ask what your company’s policy is as far as being notified if a coworker shows symptoms of the virus — does the company require a confirmed positive test result, or would someone going home with a fever be enough to send people home until negative test results are obtained? In many states, having protocols in place for dealing with COVID-19, infections were required before offices could reopen.

What if there’s no one to care for my children?

This has been such a difficult time for parents, many of whom have been trying to be productive as a worker while also trying to supervise their child’s schoolwork. Schools are starting to reopen, cautiously, but it won’t be a perfect, flawless system. Some kids are too young for school and other childcare arrangements might not be available. If you can establish a family hardship situation where you are the only person who can be at home with your young children, there might be a hardship case to plead with HR or grounds to file for unemployment if you’re not working at all. Congress passed legislation that includes up to 12 weeks of leave for parents who have to be primary caretakers for young children under COVID-19 and that could be worth pursuing.

What if I have a health condition that makes me at higher risk?

You don’t have to disclose your full medical history to your employer. In fact, you probably can’t even if you want to, due to HIPAA laws that prevent personal, private medical and health information sharing. Talk to your doctor if you’re concerned and see whether your condition could warrant an exemption to a return to work mandate. If needed, get a note and provide it to your company’s HR office.

There are so many questions right now, and it probably feels like there are very few answers. We’re all figuring out how to move forward together, and it will likely feel a little shaky for a while. Put your health and safety first, know your rights, and be open and honest with your manager about your concerns. It’s in their best interest to work with you.

If you have other questions about returning to work as COVID-19 continues to flare up, contact Action Group Staffing today. We have experts ready to help you navigate this unusual time. If you lost your job due to COVID-19, we have a database filled with great companies looking for candidates just like you. Contact us today and let us help you get back on your feet.

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