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Returning to Work After the COVID-19 Booster

Medically Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on February 25, 2022

Getting your COVID-19 vaccine and booster shot is one of the best ways to protect yourself against the virus. But it’s not a foolproof prevention plan. It’s still possible to get COVID-19 and pass it to others, and that includes when you’re on the job.

Although many companies have moved to remote work, not all can. If you have to go in, there are some steps you can take to better protect yourself from COVID-19.

Wear a mask. This is especially important if you work with the public or in a large office space. Your risk is much lower if you work outside, so you may not need a mask. But if you come into close contact with others, a mask is a good idea, even outdoors. Talk to your employer about requiring masks for workers or the public so that your risk goes down.

Keep your distance. It may not be possible to stay 6 feet away from everyone at your job, but when it is, take your space. This keeps you from breathing in droplets from others and vice versa. If you work in a flexible environment, talk to your employer about moving workstations permanently to create distance between you and your co-workers.

Ask about vaccination policies. If your employer doesn’t require vaccination, you may be able to get paid leave for vaccination time and recovery to encourage employees to get theirs. The more people who are vaccinated at your job, the lower the risk of COVID-19 spreading.

Take tests. Similarly, employees may be more likely to get tested regularly if they have flexibility to do so. With easier access to testing, your job can help curb COVID-19 spread before it starts.

Check on the ventilation. Open windows and doors when possible and use fans to send inside air outside. Ask if your company’s filtration systems are properly inspected and working well. You can also ask about portable HEPA air filtration systems. These can boost the air filtration for areas where COVID-19 transmission risk is higher, such as at a doctor’s office.

Be germ-savvy. Keep up good public health practices: Wash your hands often, don’t touch your face, and stay home if you have respiratory symptoms such as a runny nose or cough.

Keep things clean. Clean high-touch surfaces at your workspace at least once a day or as often as you need. Some good places to clean include counters, shopping carts, tables, doorknobs, keyboards, phones, and pens. 

Eat elsewhere on break. Whenever possible, eat meals and snacks outside where you can unmask safely and with a much lower risk of breathing in others’ air droplets. If outdoor dining isn’t an option, eat in shifts, or sit at least 6 feet from others as you dine.

Seek special accommodations. If you’re especially vulnerable to COVID-19 because of medications that weaken your immune system or other health conditions, you can talk to your employer about special accommodations. First, talk to your doctor about what’s important for you and your health. Once you have a solid idea of what accommodations you might need, you can talk to your employer and make a plan that meets both their needs and yours.

Ask about staying virtual. Have an open conversation about the risk of COVID-19 in your workplace and whether working from home can stay an option for you and others.

Show Sources

Photo Credit: seb_FS Productions / Blend Images / Getty Images

SOURCES:

OSHA.gov: “Protecting Workers: Guidance on Mitigating and Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 in the Workplace.”

CDC: “COVID-19: Ventilation in Buildings,” “Cleaning and Disinfecting Your Facility,” “COVID-19 Employer Information for Office Buildings.”

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