DEAR HARRIETTE: As two co-workers and I return to our five-person office during our state’s Phase 1 reopening, no one but me is complying with basic COVID-19 health safety recommendations for 6-feet social distancing and wearing masks. (One other worker remains at home because she doesn’t have child care resources for her school-age children -- a different, but all-too-common problem.) The owner of the business worked alone in the office daily throughout the governor’s stay-at-home orders.
We have no interaction with the general public in our open office floor plan, but clients do occasionally come to the office for meetings -- and they don’t practice health safety measures either. My manager and the owner also go out of the office to meet with clients without masks or keeping proper social distance.
My manager rolled his eyes at me when he saw me wearing a mask and using disinfectant on my desk on the first day back. He has made it clear that we don’t have to worry about all of those measures in our small office, because he believes the pandemic risk is overblown.
The owner told me that I can still stay home and work, but I don’t feel like I can since my manager pretty much quit communicating with me and giving me work in the last two weeks while I was at home. He said to the owner and me that I should be in the office because he is. The owner then said nothing to counter that.
Is there anything I can do or say to my manager and our boss to have them respect my decision to comply with safety protocols while in the office? I also want to encourage group compliance and acceptance. I do need to keep my job, but I want to be safe! -- Want To Comply
DEAR WANT TO COMPLY: I am sorry that your boss and co-workers are not taking the COVID-19 threat seriously at your office. Sadly, there are many people who do not think it is a health risk that could affect them. At this point, rules are loosening up about wearing masks inside private offices.
You are right to disinfect your workspace each day. You should continue to wear a mask if your co-workers are typically closer to you than 6 feet. If you are safely separated, though, you aren’t required to wear a mask. You should continue to follow safety protocols and keep your distance from your officemates, especially since they are not following the guidelines. Don’t make a fuss about it since they don’t listen anyway. Just keep your distance and keep clean.