Under Pressure

Next week, my company will start bringing people back into the office. I’m part of “phase 1,” meaning that I’m expected to return to my office on campus on Monday.

I am terrified.

Coronavirus is still very real. The number of cases is increasing, (particularly in the county I live in). I do my best to wash my hands frequently, observe social distancing, and wear a mask in public. I’ve barely left the house in the past few months.

There is immense pressure to return to the office, but I’m torn. I could leave this company, or take a leave of absence and come back when things are safer. But then I’d be leaving a job I truly love and scrambling to find a way to keep the bills paid. Or I can return to the office (as I plan to on Monday) and put my health and the health of the people I love at risk. It’s a rock and a hard place indeed.

I don’t want to make it seem like I’m being thrown to the wolves. My company is requiring masks in community areas, and we are getting a solo office if we want one. I’ve learned more than I ever thought I would about the HVAC system we used—the company is improving the air filtration system and shared details about it with us. All of these things are great for sure.

But what about the elevators?

The break rooms?

The copy areas?

All it takes is one person.

One person being careless or showing up to work sick and all hell breaks loose. I understand that people want things to get back to “normal.” But unfortunately things probably won’t be “normal” for quite some time.

Honestly, things may never go back to the way they were.

When I return to work, I won’t be going to in-person meetings. I’ll be calling into meetings from my office, with the door closed and the window open.

When I return to work, I won’t be in a classroom teaching groups of 20-40 people. I’ll be in my office, training those exact same people virtually. I won’t be able to see their faces, but I can still educate them and support them.

When I return to work, I won’t drop by someone else’s office to troubleshoot an issue, or ask a question, or just say “hi.” I’ll be calling people, or using video conferencing—all with a sign on my office door telling people to call me instead of stopping by.

When I return to work, there will be no lunchtime gatherings with coworkers as we enjoy delicious food from the cafeteria buffet lines. I’m bringing my lunch every single day, and my own silverware too. I’m currently trying to figure out how I can bring enough water for the day so I don’t have to go to the water fountain or the break room for a drink.

When I return to work, it won’t be “normal” in many ways. As I think about it, there is one way in particular that will make going to work completely abnormal for me.

I’ll be scared to do it.

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