Dear Lola,

My workplace is reopening after an extended closure during the COVID virus outbreak. I am very nervous about returning to work and I can already foresee a host of problems within the group I work with. During the online reopening training, our manager was outlining how the new office would operate. The guidelines were very typical for social distancing and face coverings. However, I was uncomfortable with my manager’s dismissive attitude towards the safeguards. As he continued to act like the procedures were unnecessary, my coworkers began making jokes about not following the new rules and getting back to normal. How can I protect myself when returning to a workplace that is not putting health and safety as a top priority?

Worried Worker

A cartoon rendering of Lola sitting in the front seat of a car saying "I better hurry, the humans need me!"

Dear Worried Worker,

First, I would like you to take a big, deep, cleansing breath in the safety of your non-contaminated home. Then I would like you to look up the phone number for your human resources department. The problem isn’t your workplace, it is your manager.

Not every manager shines a positive light on their employer.

Give your company the chance to correct this problem before you return to work. The company cared enough to put together a reopening strategy and then hold a training for the new health and safety precautions. I am sure the company will be shocked that someone in management then undermined the plan during training.

Your real worry lies in whether the company acts to resolve this matter swiftly.

If you feel the response to your concerns are lukewarm, then you need to decide how much you want to stay in this job. If you know you could find another job elsewhere, I recommend you get started on that. You can also request to continue working from home now that you’ve done so for the past few months. Many companies are finding it easier to accommodate employees rather than risking a mass exodus of great talent. You also have a third option, to return to work and see how things develop.

Your coworkers may have been joking because they are anxious as well.

You may show up to work and find all of your fellow officemates wearing their masks and practicing an overly large bubble of safety around their desks. Some of them may even be deploying the hula hoop method to repel other humans from their safe zone. The tangy scent of hand sanitizer may cause your eyes to instantly water as you enter the building.

You should run screaming from the building if they are coughing on each other while they group hug.


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