With each new day, more and more Americans receive COVID-19 vaccinations. And this is great news—FDA-approved vaccines have proven almost 100% effective at stopping severe cases of the coronavirus. But many people have not had the chance to get vaccinated or cannot for medical reasons, so as things progressively open up, a lot of people are asking themselves about safely returning to work after COVID.
And this is something to take seriously, since mental health and substance abuse issues are more likely to resurface during transitional periods. Whether you took time off during the pandemic or you’re transitioning back into an in-person position, keep reading for CDC guidelines for returning to work after COVID and mental health tips for this sensitive time.
Returning to Work After COVID Step One: Assess Your Risk
When considering returning to work after COVID, it’s important to have a realistic idea of your risk. This could mean your risk of infection, your risk of developing a serious case of COVID-19, or your risk of spreading the virus to someone around you. To determine your risk before returning to work after COVID, ask yourself these questions:
- Are you or someone you live with at increased risk of developing serious COVID-19 symptoms? If so, speak with your employer about potential ways to reduce your risk of exposure while at work, such as working in a less populated area or with social distancing between coworkers.
- For what length of time will you interact with people at work? Spending more time around an infected individual can increase your risk of catching the virus, so this should factor into how you plan to stay safe at work.
- Are you the primary caregiver for a child? If someone else will be watching after your child while you work, ask them to review CDC guidelines on caring for children during the pandemic.
- Do you have options that may let you limit your exposure to other people? Interacting with more people increases your risk of catching and spreading the virus, so ask about workplace accommodations that minimize your contact with others. This could mean virtual meetings, keeping six feet (or more) of distance between coworkers/customers, and other safety precautions.
After accessing your risk and following CDC guidelines for returning to work after COVID, you will be in good shape to keep yourself and those around you healthy. By working with your employer and coworkers, it’s possible to return to work while minimizing your risk of infection.
Step Two: Practice Risk Management Strategies
If you have been unable to be vaccinated yet, there are still steps you can take to keep yourself safe. In addition to taking the precautions named above, some safety practices you should implement upon returning to work include:
- Staying Home: If you feel unwell, don’t hesitate to use a sick day. While “pushing through it” sounds brave, it will only worsen your health and could lead to transmission of the virus. If you have been exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, err on the side of caution and quarantine until you can be effectively tested.
- Monitoring Symptoms: Sometimes, COVID-19 only presents with mild symptoms, especially in people who are younger and in good physical health. However, even cases with minor symptoms can still spread and cause serious issues for someone else. For this reason, you should watch for shortness of breath, coughing, and other COVID-19 symptoms.
- Not Sharing Equipment: Whenever possible, you should try to only use your own equipment at work. In this way, you can minimize your exposure to the virus that may be left in someone else’s work space. If sharing is necessary for your work, clean and disinfect equipment before and after use.
- Wearing a Mask: Social distancing precautions like maintaining six feet of distance between people and wearing a face mask over your mouth and nose are still some of the best ways we have to stop the virus from spreading. Even if you are not experiencing symptoms, these are protective measures that should be part of your plans for returning to work during the pandemic.
Returning to Work After COVID Step Three: Monitor Your Mental Health
Returning to work after COVID has a lot of benefits. It may mean financial security, new career opportunities, or just a general feeling of normalcy. But it could also mean more stress and pressure put on your mental health.
For example, for a lot of people, returning to work means increasing their exposure to COVID-19 to some degree. That can be scary, especially if you have not been vaccinated. This is especially dangerous for people recovering from co-occurring substance use disorders and mental health issues, since this renewed stress could contribute to a relapse.
Depending on the issues you’re facing while returning to work after COVID, there are different options available to you. If you suspect that you have a mental health issue that is making it hard to successfully return to work, you may be best served by an adult mental health program. This can give you a safe, supportive environment to develop coping skills that will help you return to work after COVID. Moreover, when you attend an Ohio mental health center with COVID-19 safety practices, you can feel comfortable and secure in your safety during treatment.
Or, if you are struggling with mental health and addiction, a dual diagnosis program might best meet your needs. If you find yourself drinking or using drugs to deal with stress or you’re in recovery and feel yourself headed toward a relapse, inpatient treatment can do a lot of good in helping you stabilize. By working with mental health experts and addiction specialists, you can get comprehensive care that simultaneously addresses both of these major issues. And in this way, you can restore your mental wellness and be better prepared to return to work.
When you feel a mental health issue coming up, we will be there to help. If you’re an Ohioan who needs mental health or dual diagnosis support, let’s start a conversation about how we can help you reach your recovery goals. Call our friendly admissions specialists at 937-483-4933 or ask your questions online, and we’ll be happy to help you return to work with a stable, healthy mental state.