The COVID-19 pandemic has been disruptive in countless ways, not least with regard to our normal work routines. As the pandemic took hold, NAPE stood up for the safety of State of Nebraska workers, demanding that management properly consider and deploy telework arrangements, social distancing, and workplace hygiene to safeguard workers’ health and well-being while dutifully fulfilling obligations to the people of Nebraska. As workers are called back into offices and other workplaces, NAPE remains committed to defending safe and healthy working conditions for all State of Nebraska workers.
For those whose working schedules, sites, and routines have changed in response to the pandemic, there can be a lot of uncertainty and anxiety around agencies’ and departments’ return-to-office plans and practices. Will I be allowed to continue teleworking? How long? Will I have to return to the office full-time? When? Under what conditions? Circumstances differ from case to case, and so do the answers to questions like these. But here are a few general guidelines:
- Be informed.
- Advocate for yourself.
- Encourage best practices.
- Work together.
First, be informed. Pay close attention to agency and departmental communications regarding teleworking and return-to-office plans and policies. Retain copies of these for reference, and save communications with supervisors and colleagues regarding scheduling, work sites, and related matters.
Second, advocate for yourself. Ask good questions of colleagues and supervisors to get clarity around plans and policies. If you have concerns, present them succinctly and clearly in writing to your supervisor. Avoid oversharing details of your personal life while focusing on the issues of central concern to you in the workplace. Advocate to get the facts, then advocate on your behalf based on your particular job, risk factors, and concerns. Always do so professionally and keep important lines of communication open, but you must be your own advocate first.
Third, encourage best practices. Be aware of and follow best practices as outlined by reliable public health institutions and experts and of policy around safety and workplace hygiene. If rules are not followed or enforced or if inadequate measures are taken to safeguard health, communicate these concerns to colleagues and supervisors. Model healthy habits and practices in the workplace and work with colleagues to develop a culture of cooperation around these.
Fourth, work together. Look out for yourself and your colleagues. We are in this together, and we all have to support one another. That can mean identifying common concerns and coordinating advocacy around these, including presenting them to management. Healthy workers are critical to a healthy Nebraska, to keeping the State of Nebraska working during the pandemic and when it ebbs. That requires a collective and collaborative effort.