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Will employees ever safely return to the office after COVID-19?

Going back to the office safely post-pandemic
Returning to work safely after the pandemic 04:27

As the pace of COVID-19 vaccinations across the U.S. picks up, workers and employers are beginning to discuss what the return to their physical workplace might look like. 

For workers, this could mean swapping the couches, kitchens and bedrooms that have doubled as offices for more than a year for desks, conference rooms and the company of colleagues. Yet many individuals remain hesitant about returning to the office, citing concerns about using public transportation to commute, for one. 

More than 70% of Americans are at least slightly concerned about returning to normal, according to a survey from A fifth of those who are worried specifically cited concerns about returning to the workplace, according to CBSN's Tanya Rivero. 

So what safety measures will companies adopt to make employees feel comfortable returning to the workplace? 

"Employees can expect more of what we've seen. Even with vaccines rolling out, COVID-19 safety precautions aren't going anywhere," Jamie Greenberger, safety and security expert at product review site, told CBSN. 

Precautions including regular handwashing, social distancing and mask wearing will be commonplace on the job for the foreseeable  future. 

"Some companies may even continue conducting COVID-19 screenings like contact tracing and regular COVID testing. They may also minimize contact with one-way walking patterns, fewer lounge areas, more space between desks and of course masks, disinfectant, and increased sanitation efforts," Greenberger added.

"A Shot of Hope": Returning to school and work 13:43

Hybrid work arrangements — in which employees can choose to continue working from home and use videoconferencing software to communicate with colleagues, while others return to the office at least part-time — are also expected to become the norm. This kind of flexibility on employers' part is important because they can't control what activities workers engage in.

"It's not just the office where people may come into contact with difficult or unsafe situations," Greenberger said. 

The pandemic is expected to have a lasting impact on how we view work and offices. Many of the changes that have allowed professionals of all stripes to work remotely are here to stay, according to experts. 

"So many companies are transitioning to fully remote working or hybrid workplaces, and addressing that shift to a more digital workplace means companies now have to think about technology, cyber security and even employee mental and physical health likely more than they ever have before," Greenberger said. "The future may look different from what we're used to, but we're making a lot of positive progress."

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