Back to work with caution

MUSCAT: As the Supreme Committee allowed both the public and private sectors to host 50 per cent white-collar workforce, offices in the Sultanate opened on Sunday with stringent measures in place.

Although every employee who returned to work was very cautious, attendance was reported to be low at several offices. Some even did not venture to open their shutters.

Many people were averse to the opening of offices, which, they feared, would result in contracting the coronavirus infection.

While the reaction on the first day of resuming work was mixed with many employees experiencing a cultural shift as Tariq Aziz, who is working with a finance company said, “the new norms in the office are a bit painful although they are for our safety”.

No doubt, it is a great feeling to be back on my seat and seeing my colleagues despite the fact that many of them are not present on the floor which used to accommodate more than 30 staff, he said.

“But the identity has become an issue. With face masks, we were not able to recognise each other. It is a real shift from the routine”, he told Observer.

Handshakes are out. Masks have become socially de rigueur and, if not worn, will amount to an offence punishable with fine.

The Supreme Committee for dealing with COVID-19 situation decided on Wednesday employees in the government and private sectors could resume work gradually, with the attendance of 50 per cent of the workforce.

Ahmed al Lawati, who works in an insurance company said that customer arrivals to the office was almost nil as most of the works were done online.

“What is amazing is the change — temperature checks, masks, sanitisers – which are becoming the parameters to enter the workplace”, he said.

He said the overall vibe is good. There is no biometric attendance or signing. But the new social mores of socially-distanced chairs and masked colleagues will continue to haunt us with COVID times, Al Lawati said.

Echoing the same concern, Vikas Keluskar, a human resource specialist said that the staff will need some time to adapt to the new situation.

“It might be a bit awkward at first to maintain a two-metre distance with your colleagues while catching up every morning for a meeting or later assembling for a coffee or the like”, he said.

According to him, hygiene is not just limited to a person or to an office with its clean and shiny look, employers will now have to step up their sanitisation programmes.

“Now everyone is very careful about the air he or she breathes,” he said.

Still, worries over hygiene will continue to top concerns as employees return to the workplace, and companies will need to take new measures to minimise the number of hand contact surfaces, Keluskar added.