Working from home is the new norm for most Americans with almost two-thirds of the working population transitioned to couch labor since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. The sudden job site shift may have been a welcome change for most of these workers, allowing many to see the novelty of the inside of their home at eleven am on a Tuesday morning, but prolonged exposure has sparked unrest. What was once an embraced changed has now quieted down into a frustration (not so) stay-cation. While working from home has the benefit of lounge wear and a short commute to the couch, these advantages are balanced by ever-present children in a worker’s ‘office’ and a lost sense of structure. All of this has culminated in the ultimate question (and hopeful plea): when can I go back to work?
The daunting reality of the answer to this question is not an easy pill to swallow. It turns out that most companies are seeking to be the last to return to the office. In Alabama specifically, stay-at-home orders expired over a month ago on April 30th, yet many workers have yet to be called back into the office. It may be a beneficial to employees that most bosses are realizing all the meetings that truly could have been an email, but this also means that companies are recognizing the potential to expand profit margins by offloading expensive office space. By having employees telecommute when possible, the need to house workers and monitor via technology is quickly becoming the desired end game. In fact, Nationwide insurance has closed five offices around the country and made a permanent move to have 4,000 employees work remotely. But this does not necessarily mean you will never see your coworkers while on the clock again. Some employers are reporting that prolonging back-to-office dates well-past the stay-at-home orders end is merely a precaution to allow management to reconfigure the layouts of offices and job sites in order to comply with social distancing and to minimize the spread of hazardous germs. Employees may see upon the eventual return to the job site that offices have been reconfigured into open concept work spaces to increase employee productivity while decreasing the time spent within six feet of other employees.
With reconfiguration and mass sanitation underway, most offices have taken the approach of a phased reopening, only allowing a set proportion of the employee population to return to the office at a time in order to maintain control of the health of the office. But the end result of this plan, as hoped for by many employees, is to allow workers to return to the office. While a date for individual companies may not be a uniform standard across the board, it is a shared goal for most.
If you are hurt on the job due to unsafe working conditions, seek legal counsel, as you may be entitled to workers’ compensation or other benefits. As we have since 1967, we will continue to protect the legal rights of our clients – those who are hurt on the job while working for Alabama employers. If you have been injured on the job and want to learn your rights, please consider contacting the Nomberg Law Firm. Our office number is 205-930-6900.
Bernard D. Nomberg has been a lawyer for more than 20 years. Bernard has earned an AV rating from Martindale-Hubbell’s peer-review rating. In 2019, Bernard was named a Super Lawyer for the 7th year in a row.