This is something that I have been dreading for a very long time: returning to the office.
Not only was I not keen to come off of maternity and get back to work (i miss my mush mush!), but I certainly wasn’t expecting returning to work in the middle of a pandemic. My first week back luckily i worked from home, but this week was the “Reoccupation” of the Registry office- full stop. (Today was my first day back in the actual office due to my own personal circumstance.)
Leading up to this, i had many trepidations surrounding going back into the office. The way it will be is that every other person in the office will be working from home, while the first half work in the office...this way the people who a “In" will be spaced apart. This will happen for 2 week....9 days to be exact with everyone on Friday of the 2nd week working from home to allow the cleaners to do a deep clean. This will also leave 72 hours between the first group of people occupying the office and the 2nd set of people(the ones working from home to start with) who will occupy the office for the following 2 weeks (or 9 days). And repeat.
Two days before reoccupation i saw a risk assessment for the office as well as general university guidelines:
• Wear masks inside while walking around
• Use the hand sanitizer provided at entrances
• Wash hands often and for 20 seconds each time
• Blue roll and antibacterial spray provided in each classroom and in the office.
• Wipe down desk and work area at the start and end of every day
• Keep your distance
• Keep left when walking down corridors
• Communication should be through phone, email or video call
• If meeting face to face, keep distance, wear masks and limit to 15minutes
In theory it checks out, but my anxiety brain had more than a little freak out about things. How often are things(door handles, bannisters, etc) cleaned? When will bathrooms be cleaned? How many ppl are allowed in the bathroom at a time? Will we be able to use the kitchens? If so, how often are those cleaned? How many people are allowed in the kitchen at one time? Will there be proper ventilation in the office? How deep are the offices going to be cleaned every fortnight before the swap over of staff? Where will I be able to eat my lunch? Are the outside benches clean? How much cleaning supplies will be offered for us to use in the office? Do i have the right to refuse meeting anyone in person? Who’s going to be la-dee-da on the rules? Can i avoid them? Will i catch COVID? What will i do if i do get it? What if i pass it on to Henry? Will i show symptoms? How will i know?
And a myriad of other thoughts. On the surface, i reckon these are normal things to be worried about in a pandemic. I got some of these questions answered the next day but there were too many variables that didn’t add up. Since i was due to come back into the office this week and there was no way around it ive adopted the philosophy that the only one i can count on is me. So i took precautions to make sure all of my bases were covered.
• Office supplies...my own paper, notebook and pens. There is no sharing. No chance of cross contamination.
• 5 facemasks: a new one for every day of the week, until they can be laundered
• Personal hand sanitizer dispenser.....
The AWESOME thing about my personal anxiety is that some of my physical symptoms are increased heart rate, sweating, AND impulsive touching of face, chewing on my nails/cuticles, and picking my spots, scabs and other skin imperfections. Now what SHOULDN’T i be doing during a pandemic? ANSWER...all of those things. But being in a pandemic makes me do these behaviours exponentially more depending on how anxious i get. Hence i will be using a bucket ton of hand sanitizer
• Measuring tape and some painters tape: this is so that i can mark out 1Metre around my desk so i know when to tell people to get out of my bubble.
• A picnic blanket: to sit on outside on the grass when i have my lunch
• The little Book of Mental Health: in case i need advice
• Antibacterial Wipes: these are mostly so that when i do need to use the bathroom i can wipe the door handle, lock, the toilet seat, the flush button, faucet and soap dispenser. I’ll also take these with me when i need to sanitize and there aren’t supplies provided by the university.
• A variety of cloths to use in conjunction with...
• Anti bacterial spray: because wiping things down twice a day will not be enough
• A plastic bag to put the used cloths into and take home to wash
• My own water bottle
• A back up water bottle to refill
• Lunch, including snacks and soda so there’s no reason to need to visit the on campus shop or canteen.
• Coffee, Tea, Milk again...so i don’t need to go out of the office for my caffeine fix
• My own Mug, spoon, and fork that i will take home and wash every day.
• A small tin can to use as a desk trashcan: so i don’t have to keep walking through the office to throw trash away
Everything that I’ve taken in to work with me is to ensure i am as safe and cautious as i can be. Some people might think im over doing it, but the thing about anxiety is that there is no rhyme or reason to it. Even though the risk assessment did its job in stating that security measures had been put in place, i still had a huge distrust that this was the case and that id be safe enough to return to work.
I fully expect that depending on how anxious i get, i may be spending a third of every office working day physically combating COVID.....wiping down desk, phone, computers, sanitizing hands, washing hands, wiping down toilets or door handles, or anything else that gets touched, putting facemasks on or off, walking further to avoid people. There is no knowing what is going to happen and seeing as how i will be sharing the campus and our building with staff and students i feel i need to be extra vigilant.
So, how was my first day back in the office? Quite frankly...interesting.
I made sure to allow loads of time to account for travel/traffic, parking, getting my staff card activated, setting up my computer and just generally getting my bearings. I got there 30min early which is what i hoped. Also it helped because I noticed while i was driving that my trousers were inside out...so getting there early gave me time to change too.
Besides the trouser mishap, the 2nd pitfall?... I had to walk to reception to get my ID card activated since it wouldn’t work at the key activation point in our building.
Next was tackling the desk. There was hand sanitizer, paper towels and antibacterial spray in the office(although i couldn’t find it to begin with cause i was looking for stations on the wall, but they were on the ends of desks in the centre of the room). I wiped down EVERYTHING. And in fact, i dont think my station had been cleaned at all by cleaning staff over the weekend because there was a lot of dust build-up. I felt bad using up loads of the communal office sanitation supplies that i ended up using my own...which is why i brought it in as well...i wanted to make sure i wasn’t bogarting the supplies, knowing how much id want to keep my station clean.
I marked down where 1metre (6ft) was with tape on the carpet surrounding my desk. Luckily I’m in a corner, by the windows, so im the furthest away from anyone else, with fresh air, and only 1 way for anyone to approach me. So if anyone does drop in unexpected, if they reach that 1metre line, that is the NOPE ZONE.
After all the COVID measures were in place, i set up my laptop...but low and behold, nothing was working. I could log on to my computer, but i couldn’t open ANYTHING up because it said my internet wasn’t connected. Basically everything on the network requires internet connection. So I spent the better part of the day waiting....and waiting...and on the phone to IT to get my internet to play ball so that i could do some actual work.
The only GOOD part of today was a visit from a new Campus Cat. Oooooooh!
The windows being open...people in the office started hearing a wailing noise. It turns out it was a very loud Himalayan Cat that was wandering in the outdoor space between our office and the next open plan office about 7/8? metres away. Not only because i love cats, but because this cat was causing such a disturbance, i decided to don my face mask and go visit the kitty.
I went round to the outside, called the kitty to me, and they followed me as i lead it out of that space and away from the offices so it wouldn’t disturb anyone. Then when we got far enough away the kitty laid down and started rolling around for me to pet them. I gave them a cheeky little stroke or two before sneaking back to the office. The kitty was SOOOOO friendly, the trouble wasn’t getting them to follow me away from the office windows, it was getting it NOT to follow me back into the building!
Anywho...I washed my hands after petting kitty and went back into the office to sit and do nothing again. *sigh* This being my first day back i have no idea if this cat will hang around, or if it was a one off but it was a lovely addition to a complicated day. If this Himalayan kitty cat will be making a frequent appearance on campus, then A) I best think of what to call them, and B) professor Toby Paws(the actual resident Uni Cat-with its own Instagram account might i add....) better watch out!