How to Be Back at Work After COVID

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It seems like the national timeline for total COVID vaccine availability keeps moving up. First it was likely that every American adult would have had the shots by this fall; now the Biden administration believes it can supply enough vaccines by the end of May. That won't mean an immediate return to pre-COVID life, but it does indicate that we should get ready to ease back into something like it.

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That includes going in to a physical workplace again, and other countries around the world are showing the way. Researchers in China and Illinois have just published a study laying out what American workplaces can learn from reopenings in Wuhan, the region in central China first struck by the coronavirus.

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"As employees are physically returning to work, they also need to be mentally prepared to reconnect," said lead author Yuan Zhenyu. "For example, employees are encouraged to spend some time reviewing work progress and set work priorities for upcoming tasks before coming back to work. This is similar to the warmup before a workout. With some mental 'warmup,' employees will find it easier to reconnect and reengage at work."

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This lift can't be left to workers alone, though; the researchers emphasized that managers need to "set a good example themselves by clearly communicating, enforcing, and promoting workplace health and safety protocols."

Wuhan has a lot to teach us about post-COVID life, both at the workplace and outside it. Plan to expect a long transition into something new — but hopefully also something better for all of us.

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