Omicron and the Office: Your Questions, Answered


It is a tumultuous moment in the world of work. With Covid cases soaring, companies are postponing return-to-office plans or putting in place new safety policies.

We looked at five questions workers are struggling with:

How can you stay safe if you’re starting to go back into the office?

It starts with a high-quality mask because the Omicron variant is so infectious. Don’t hesitate to be explicit about your safety preferences with colleagues: Let them know, for example, if you want to stay away from others when eating. Companies can do a lot too, like investing in ventilation and setting up work environments that allow for social distancing.

If you have been going into the office, what should you do if you feel sick?

If you start to experience symptoms — a scratchy throat or congestion — you should go get a test. Lab tests, known as P.C.R.s, will offer a more accurate assessment of whether you are infected, while rapid antigen tests give a good sense of whether you are contagious.

If you have Covid, how long before you can go back to work?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends you isolate for at least five days. After that, if you are asymptomatic or your symptoms are improving, you can mingle with others if you wear a mask for the next five days. Many public health experts say it is best to wait for at least one negative antigen test before leaving isolation.

If you’re still stuck working from home, how can you get your best work done?

Create an office-like setup at home. A desk or comfortable chair can help you stay focused and productive. We like to add other touches, like candles and snacks. Don’t be shy if you are craving guidance on your work -- reach out to your manager and colleagues. And be compassionate with yourself when circumstances are outside your control.

How can you connect with your colleagues while working remotely?

Don’t write off Zoom or Google Hangouts to stay connected. Schedule virtual coffee chats with colleagues you want to get to know. Or try an old-fashioned phone call if you’re Zoomed out, like us! Send notes to co-workers who have done work that you appreciate. And when it’s safe, meet up with colleagues outside. We’re both big fans of a walk in the park.

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