“Anything dead coming back to life hurts”. These words were written by Tony Morrison in her powerful book Beloved.
The character was talking about a starkly different scenario, but I believe the principle stands true to our world today. We are very slowly entering a phase of coming back to life. For the economy (hopefully this will come sooner than later), for socialising and for our life in general as we re-enter the world. This unfortunately, may come with uncertainty and anxiety, but it is the struggle to come back to life that we now face. To come back to a changed normal.
Writing this was a struggle. What a curious world we live in, where we need guidance on how to comfortably return to the outside world, particularly the office. This is a space we once went to without concern. Now, this process requires some introspection and consideration. The truth is that there are no absolute answers that will effectively eradicate the anxiety. Everyone is different and different things assist different people.
Many of us have just become accustomed to working at home. This may have included the mammoth task of being teacher, cleaner, professional and banana bread maker all in one exhausting and confusing go. And now, we face going back to “normal” life.
But an uncertain world now requires that certain steps be taken in order to reduce the risk of catching COVID-19.
The advice I will share is that of Dr Anton Meyberg. Meyberg is a Pulmonologist and Physician who has been instrumental in treating COVID-19 patients and introducing the relevant protocols.
According to him, there are certain procedures that every office and its employees should take:
1. Wash your hands before you put your mask on and before you take it off.
2. Make sure you put your mask on covering your nose and mouth and in such a way that it is comfortable. It can be more of a hazard if it leaves you touching your face to correct it throughout the day.
3. If you wear gloves, take them off in such a way that you do not contaminate your hands with them and make sure to wash your hands afterward.
4. Every office should test the temperature of their employees before they enter the premises. If a person has a temperature above 37.7, they should not be allowed into the office as they would automatically be considered ‘a person of interest’ as far as the virus is concerned.
5. Employees should social distance with two meters distance between them.
6. Sanitise your workspace, keyboard and cell phone throughout the day (every 30 minutes would be best).
7. Wash and/or sanitise your hands throughout the day for a minimum of 20 seconds.
8. Do not share sanitisers or use sanitisers that release liquid by standing on a leaver. It is not ideal to be using a sanitiser that is touched by everyone.
9. If you need to use the elevator, have something ready in your pocket to push the required buttons.
The above is manageable with thought and preparation, yet this does not necessarily make one feel any less anxious about a return to the office. There is a saying that the only way out is through – meaning for many people there will be no option to work from home or to avoid the inevitable. The only way out will be to face what is scary, return to the office and face the changed world.
I will leave the professional advice to psychologists and doctors. But it is worth reminding ourselves to be kind to ourselves. We should expect some pain along the way, anticipate sensory overload along with uncertainty. What matters is that we are taking a step back to life.
One day children will be taught in history lessons how the people in the age of Corona fought their way back to life one day at a time from counting their way through lockdown to a post-lockdown, forever different world.