While many Americans are still out of work, some businesses have begun reopening, ending our pandemic staycations. Some people have been able to enjoy self-quarantine while others have started to lose their sanity over it. And, working from home has also received mixed reviews.

The reality is this virus isn’t going away, and people will need to work regardless of the fact. The scary thing is despite “flattening the curve” for a couple of months, new cases in the U.S. are back on the rise, reaching new highs in a lot of states. It’s not just the big cities getting all the cases either; many small cities and even rural areas are among the highest in cases per capita.

Many of the states that reopened businesses earlier are the ones seeing a spike in new cases. The protests and riots over police brutality also likely played a role in the recent surge.

Regardless of these circumstances, many of us need to work. Some states are reeling back their COVID restrictions, reclosing businesses. Though this is happening in some states, we all can’t quarantine forever without income.

In positive news, some companies are heading towards working from home permanently. Thanks to tech tools that improve communication between teams, big companies like Facebook, Twitter, Shopify, Slack, and others have discussed making working from home the new norm.

While that is excellent news for some, most people don’t have the luxury of being able to work from home. In fact, above 70% or more of people working in the U.S. aren’t able to work from home.

Just take a look at some data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics showing the percentage of workers who are able to “Telework” across 12 of the country’s biggest industries.

This 70% of US citizens are going to need to find employment somehow, which means opening businesses is inevitable despite how high COVID cases get. And unfortunately, there is nothing we can do to eliminate all risks as we push to open businesses.

There’s no guarantee for cure either. While some scientists say  we may see one by 2021, there’s a chance that this virus may have to run its course without a vaccine.

There are things you can do to improve the safety of yourself and the people around you, though:

  • Keep your distance — stay 6 feet apart
  • Wash your hands — scrub with soap for at least 20 seconds
  • Don’t touch your face — the virus spreads best through the nose, mouth, and eyes.
  • Wear a mask — the more of us that do, the better

These tips may be able to improve the chances of avoiding COVID. But, what about our mental health?

Some of us want to go back to work. Not everyone has a comfortable workspace at home. But even those of us with a less-than-great home-workspace have been able to enjoy the lack of a commute.

There are reasons to like working from home:

  • Waking up later, not having to commute
  • Extra free time
  • Freedom from the panopticon of constant surveillance at work
  • The ability to wear whatever you want
  • Having a full fridge and kitchen at all times

Working from home is starting to feel normal to us. How are people going to react when they finally have to go back into the office? How is it going to feel?

It might feel much like the first day back at school after a summer break — minus the fun stuff. It’s going to feel weird for a lot of people, especially for new hires or those that haven’t been with the company long.

Here are some things to remember when your work decides to bring people back to the workplace:

  • Everyone reacts differently to this situation. Some have been directly affected by harsh reality, and others have it a bit easier. Remember to have respect for your coworkers and be mindful of their concerns or the precautionary measures they’re taking. Even if COVID hasn’t hurt your loved ones physically or financially, the world has been flipped on its head for some. Try to be aware of any changes in personality that seem uncharacteristic of your coworkers.
  • Communication is key. Team meetings may be done a bit differently, but that doesn’t mean your team can’t share a clear agenda with each other. Your company may want to push for using team communication platforms so that this can be done effectively. Even doing small team-building exercises can help keep a team in communicating better.
  • Manage your stress and be there for others. Call on the supportive people in your life to help you manage your stress. Refresh when you get home and unwind with some exercise or activity. And, if you see a coworker struggling, be there for them and listen to what they have to say.

Your employer may even have an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) to help relieve stress. Some employers have these programs available because anxiety and depression can affect performance. So, be sure to ask, and don’t be ashamed.

An EAP often includes:

  • Mental Health Services — for anxiety, depression, crisis, family issues, and behavioral issues like addiction.
  • Other Health Services — such as a fitness or nutrition plan, or perhaps helping give care to a dependant child or elder.
  • Financial Services — helping improve one’s budgeting, spending habits, loan consolidation, debt repayments, and more.
  • Work-Related Services — like establishing plans for professional development or avoiding burnout.