New York, NY – More people are finally returning to the workplace. Offices that have gone untouched since the shutdown are now being revisited after sitting vacant for all this time. However, there seems to be sad regard for the empty desks of those who either did not, or could not, return to work. 

Ben Kimmel.

Of course, traffic has picked up and congestion over New York City bridges is certainly increasing. As one of the many cars heading over the George Washington Bridge each morning, I can certainly attest to traffic consistently building. 

Something else I have noticed, formerly remote workers being forced to see people they have not seen face-to-face since the shutdown began in March 2020. Regardless of the current Covid worries, social distancing or mask wearing protocols — people are finding themselves having to deal with workplace stressors that pre-date the shutdown. The days of Zoom meetings and physical separation are largely coming to an end, which means unavoidable in-person interactions are an inevitable threat to those with previous workplace struggles.

Other professional anxieties extend further than simply reentering the workplace. Employers are setting up Covid testing sites in the workplace. Home life concerns are still relevant to workers with children who have returned to the classroom.

Many of our coworkers have experienced terrible losses in their families. This makes discussing Covid topics — including debates around vaccine mandates — very dicey. Conversations around vaccine politics hold different weight for those who lost people during the pandemic. 

Recent reports reflect Covid’s decline. Then again, the news comes after the deaths of more than 700,000 people across our country, with the number of infected cases rising to more than 44.3 million.

To be clear, some of the feedback from returning workers has been mixed. Some people are happy to be back. But others I’ve talked to wish they were still working from home. Either way, more people are beginning to wonder about the traditional workweek. Do we need traditional offices anymore? Is the old 9-5 routine a thing of the past?

I believe that requiring proof of vaccination has certainly helped in the fight against the virus. More and more, it looks as though we are moving forward in our efforts to rebuild our cities. However, it is important to state that we are living in historic times. We have never seen anything like this in our recent history. No one knows how long it will take to fully recover from the pandemic. All we can do is hope and pray, stay vigilant, be patient, be kind to one another — and, of course, be responsible for our actions. Anything else would be counterproductive. #timetoputthevirusbehindus

Ben Kimmel is a proud member of the IUOE Local 94, as well as an Author, Writer on, Mental Health First Aid Instructor, Certified Addiction and Recovery Coach, Certified Professional Life Coach, and Peer & Wellness Advocate.  Ben can be reached at



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