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Social Graces: Your job is heading back to the office, but you don't feel safe. Here's how to handle it.

By Hanna Herrera Greenspan, Chicago Tribune on

Published in Home and Consumer News

Q: Your company has decided to go back to the office, but you don't feel safe doing that yet. How should you handle the situation, given the economy and job security?

A: In a matter of a few short months, the guidelines for etiquette have shifted. Safety comes before etiquette. As we do our best to adjust and with many stay-at-home orders ending, returning to our jobs probably feels rushed and scary.

For many, unemployment will come to an end, and employees will have to decide if they are comfortable heading back to work. For starters, know your local rules and regulations. Workplace protections can be different based on where you live.

Depending on your circumstances, if you are able to discuss your concerns with your boss, do it. If you can't refuse to return to work, you can still try to negotiate. Perhaps you can reach an agreement to continue to work from home a couple more weeks until you feel comfortable.

When it's time to go back to the office, continue to abide by the guidelines put in place by health officials.

Communicate your fears to your employer. For peace of mind, find out what protocols have been put in place to help ease your fears. Things are going to feel awkward for a while. But the rules of social etiquette still apply. It's all about feeling comfortable and having others around you feel comfortable. When in doubt, refer to the core values of etiquette: respect and consideration.

- Jacquelyn Youst, etiquette expert and owner of Pennsylvania Academy of Protocol


A: This is such a difficult situation because it really pits your financial security against your physical security.

The first step is communication: Talk to your boss, and ask if you can do your job remotely. The biggest concern for a manager is that you won't work as hard from home. Address that head-on by explaining that you will be working even harder from home (no commute time) and will be just as accessible and accountable.

If this approach doesn't work, then you will have a tough choice to make. Can you afford to be unemployed for a potentially lengthy period of time? This is not a good market for job seekers. If you need this job to sustain you financially, then you will head back to work in as safe a way as possible.

Now that you have opened the lines of communication with your boss, ask if the office will be requiring everyone to wear masks and maintain at least a 6-foot distance from one another. Let's hope the answer is yes.

- Samantha Ettus, work/life balance expert and author of "The Pie of Life"

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