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Immunocompromised workers left behind

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And while some workers may feel the dangers of the pandemic have passed and it’s safe to return to work, for Griffin the risks are still present. In fact, the easing of restrictions, the reduction in testing and the drop in daily reports on the number of cases have made the stakes higher.

“It’s really hard to tell how bad the Covid cases are, which makes it hard to decide if I can take a bus or go to the bank,” he says.

No “good” options?

Today, many organizations are trying to tackle the same challenges: after full-time remote work, should workers return to the office and how to organize this return to the office? Also, how can companies create policies that are as inclusive as possible? This question throws another wrench in the cogs, because it’s difficult, if not impossible, to come up with a plan that works for everyone.

For businesses, there are no easy options, especially since there is no precedent for handling a situation like this. Many companies are not adhering to the “one rule for everyone” policies common before the pandemic, where all workers are expected to come full-time. “Some organizations say, well, just wear a mask, and many immunocompromised people resort to it because they feel like they have no other choice,” says Praslova.

However, in addition to their concerns about exposure to the virus, immunocompromised workers who are mandated to return risk isolation from their peers, both physically and socially – meaning going to the office to sit alone whole day can seem pointless or leave workers excluded from vital conversations and collaborations. And who wants to be the only worker to wear a mask in a meeting or who always asks to open the open window to ventilate, even when it’s cold?

In contrast, some disability laws in some countries may require companies to provide reasonable accommodations to immunocompromised workers, so that they are not at risk in the office. In many cases, “this would be a valid request for an employer to consider,” says Dr. Gena Cox, a Florida-based organizational psychologist and author of Leading Inclusion. Such arrangements can range from assigning someone an isolated workstation to installing plexiglass protective screens.