Baker: Extending work-from-home policies ‘right thing to do,’ those returning to work will have to adapt to changes

BRAINTREE, MASS. (WHDH) - As businesses in Massachusetts begin to recommence operations under Phase 1 of the states’ four-phased plan to a “New Normal,” Gov. Charlie Baker on Wednesday again urged employers to extend their work-from-home policies, if possible, because it’s “absolutely the right thing to do” with respect to limiting the number of employees who have to enter workplaces and effectively guarding against the possible spread of COVID-19.

“The lieutenant governor and I were actually very positive about how many companies here in the Commonwealth said they were going to continue to make it possible for their employees to work from home and work remotely,” Baker said during a news conference that followed a tour of Symmons Kitchen and Bath in Braintree, which now manufactures personal protective equipment. “We the Commonwealth happen to be one of those. I certainly believe it’s absolutely the right thing to do with COVID and all of the guidance we have gotten from the public health folks.”

After walking through Symmons’ cafeteria, Baker explained that he witnessed a foreign and uneasy sight of people sitting one to a table, tables spread far apart, and little to no conversations taking place.

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Baker said workers across the state are going to have to adapt to a new work environment that will include the absence of “socialization,” “sense of team,” and the “sense of community” that once came with having the ability to sit together at work.

“In workplaces across the Commonwealth and probably across the country, is some of that intimacy, that physical intimacy that is so much a part of the shared commitment to work that many people who have worked together for a long period of time have…That will, in fact, go away,” Baker said. “That is going to be the way it’s going to be for some period of time until the point where we have treatments or a vaccine.”

Baker stressed that he understands that continuing to work from home and limiting office capacity to no more than 25 percent during Phase 1 are things that will create a “lost opportunity” for people to engage with each other after weeks upon weeks of coronavirus isolation.

“I think in some ways, that’s part of the next act associated with all this will be about,” Baker said.

Baker also reminded every Bay State resident that they still have an important role to play in slowing the spread of COVID-19 and ensuring that key coronavirus data continues to trend positively so Phase 2 can be unlocked on June 8.

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“Please continue to do the four things we talk about on a pretty regular basis,” Baker said. Those measures are:

  • Wearing a face covering when social distancing is not possible
  • Routinely washing hands and sanitizing surfaces
  • Maintaining a distance of at least six feet from other people
  • Vigilantly monitoring for COVID-19 symptoms and staying home if sick

On May 18, construction sites, manufacturing businesses, and places of worship were given the green light to immediately reopen with strong safety and health restrictions in place. They must all comply with mandatory safety standards and recommended best practices in social distancing, hygiene protocols, staffing and operations, and cleaning and disinfecting.

Lab and office spaces, hair salons, barbershops, pet grooming businesses, car washes, and retail stores that offer remote fulfillment or curbside pickup will start to reopen on May 25 as part of Phase 1. Offices in Boston can start to reopen on June 1.

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