Are you back at work and worried about getting COVID? You are not alone

As the provinces move remove most COVID-19 restrictions i mandates of masksmany employees are returning to the workplace, like it or not.

I an Angus Reid / CBC survey conducted in March suggests that many do not. More than half of respondents (56%) said they would look for another job if they were asked to return to the office, and almost a quarter (23%) said they would resign immediately.

Beyond reconciling work and family life, some are simply concerned about being exposed to COVID-19 by being in indoor spaces that may not have adequate ventilation and no longer require masking or vaccination.

“Now you’re sitting face to face with people who don’t wear masks, who don’t know what their vaccination status is, who now travel daily by GO train or subway,” said Mark Kozicki, senior director of a Toronto Financial Institution.

Even the federal government wants to maintain the hybrid model for Parliament because of COVID.

“This pandemic continues and so does the need for flexibility,” said House Leader Mark Holland.

But not everyone has this option. And now what?

Doctors advise workers to wear a mask if they need to work indoors with inadequate ventilation. (Maggie MacPherson / CBC)

Is it safe to return to work?

“If you have a return-to-work policy, you will have an increase in cases,” said Dr. Donald Vinh, an infectious disease specialist and medical microbiologist at McGill University Health Center.

But whether a workplace is “safe” depends on whether you work in a private or open space space and whether there is adequate ventilation.

“Quite simply,” Vinh said, “the only thing you can control is your vaccination status and your masking.”

TARGET | Going back to the office versus working from home:

How jobs face the dilemma of returning to the office

Ian Hanomansing talks to Klaryssa Pangilinan, head of people and culture at Daily Hive, and Erin Bury, co-founder and CEO of Willful, about how their jobs are navigating the complicated decision to return employees to the office.

Kozicki, who worked from home during the pandemic, recently returned to her office three days a week. But it was a different place. It is located in a smaller work area, with fewer individual offices and more people sitting closer together, often face to face, with no barriers between them.

It’s the “polar opposite of what we’ve been told for the past two years,” he said: a “very close-up set of quarters” of people who may be infected with COVID, may be spreading it, or may not be protecting themselves. .

Vinh says that while distancing is important to limit COVID transmission, ventilation is even more so.

“The problem,” he said, “is that there hasn’t been a major push to improve ventilation across the country.”

He says that during good weather, open the windows if possible. Try not to be in small rooms with the door closed and ask your employer for portable air filtering devices.

Any workplace that doesn’t have “hospital-level” ventilation, he said, should consider asking people to wear masks inside. That means an N95 or equivalent.

A doctor says that any workplace without “hospital-level” ventilation should make appropriate masks available to his workers. (CBC)

Can I refuse to go back to the office if I feel insecure?

“There’s probably not much room for an employee to flatly refuse an indication to return to work,” said Ryan Macklon, a labor and human rights lawyer in Vancouver.

But there are exceptions: for example, if the employee has a legitimate medical reason not to get vaccinated.

“Then it’s probably the case that the employer has to offer accommodation,” Macklon said.

This could include continuing to work from home, alternating days in the office to make the space less crowded, allowing employees to change workspaces for proper distance, or moving to a quieter corner with less traffic and less interaction. from person to person.

Should I worry about coming back if I’m not vaccinated?

This is easy, according to Vinh. Anything less than three doses of vaccine at this time would put a person at increased risk for COVID-19.

“If you don’t have at least three doses, or three doses plus one or two boosters, depending on your comorbidity and a lot of other factors, you’re not fully vaccinated,” he said. “And so, yes, you should worry.”

I am fully vaccinated, but my unvaccinated colleagues have also returned. Do they put me at risk?

Not really, because while vaccines were initially effective in preventing serious illness and transmission, with Omicron, they became less effective in preventing symptomatic infection, according to Dr. Zain Chagla, an infectious disease physician and associate professor at McMaster University in Hamilton.

“So if the people sitting next to you are vaccinated with one dose, two doses, three doses, recovered from COVID, you know, they are all sitting with the same relative risk of having COVID or having protection against symptomatic infection.” he told CBC Radio’s Ontario Today on Monday.

Some workplaces have explored the creation of different spaces for vaccinated and unvaccinated employees.

But Chagla says imposing mask warrants would probably do more to reduce transmission.

Segregating people by vaccination status “is not very effective and can really cause a lot of damage and discomfort,” he said.

Should I worry about sharing workstations?

Not so much with regard to the capture of COVID-19, which is transmitted mainly by air. But keeping surfaces such as computer stations or phones disinfected will help limit the transmission of other diseases such as colds or flu.

Sharing a workstation will not necessarily increase a person’s risk of contracting COVID, but not disinfecting it could increase the risk of colds or flu. (Jean-Claude Taliana / CBC)

What resources do I have if I get sick because I have to go to work?

Not much, according to Macklon.

“Overall, can I sue my company because I have COVID at work? We’ll go with probably not,” he said. “We haven’t seen any recent cases where an employer has been held responsible for an employee getting sick at work.”

TARGET | Getting sick at work:

Growing concern over COVID-related deaths and work-related injuries

As more companies relocate workers to the site, there are concerns that it could lead to an increase in COVID-19-related deaths and work-related injuries. Proponents of her case have been working to make the actual transcript of this statement available online.

Vinh says employers should want to keep their workers healthy.

“If your workforce gets sick and you have to take time off work, that’s actually less productive than even working from home,” he said.

Are employers responsible for preventing harassment or harassment around the mask?

Macklon says employers are governed by each province’s occupational safety legislation and must provide a safe space “free from harassment and harassment.” He says most big business people are likely to have policies that should be broad enough to include any harassment issues surrounding masking.

The Angus Reid Institute surveyed 2,550 adults online between March 1 and 4, 2022, who are members of the Angus Reid Forum. A probability sample of this size would lead to a margin of error of +/- 2 percentage points, 19 times 20. The survey was conducted in collaboration with CBC.

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