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Going back to the office? An expert shares what you'll need for the return

Innovation meets sanitization.
Two coworkers inside an office wearing face masks, bumping elbows
Halfpoint Images / Getty Images

After spending more than a year working from home during a pandemic, the idea of returning to the office may be challenging for some. Getting comfortable in the new normal isn't always easy, and it's especially difficult if you have to be abundantly cautious for yourself or someone you know. Or maybe you'd just like to take some extra sanitary precautions once you're back at your desk.

Either way, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention has provided excellent insight on where exactly to be cautious. Although we know that surface transmission of COVID-19 isn't as predominant as airborne transmission, high-touch surfaces like bathroom faucet handles, doorknobs and elevator buttons — all things we come across in most office settings — are typically the most infectious.

Shop TODAY spoke with Dr. Robyn Gershon, clinical professor for the department of epidemiology at NYU, about what you can do to protect yourself against COVID-19 once you're back in the office.

How to protect yourself in the office

Dr. Gershon's advice is centered around having a heightened sense of your surroundings and personal health status while you're working in person. For example, she mentions taking mental note of things you touch (or don't touch) along your commute and or in your office, deeming them "clean" and versus "dirty."

"Say you touch your cell phone while you're on the subway; that's now dirty," she explained. "You should disinfect that once you get to your office with an alcohol wipe or disinfectant [spray]."

She also advises washing your hands immediately when you get to the office and disinfecting your office space upon arrival. The same principle during your commute should follow you to your office: you don't want to touch or spread any germs once you're there. Use a disinfectant spray to fully wipe down your office's door handles, keyboard, mouse and any other high-touch areas. All in all, you'll want to ensure that your personal office space is contaminate-free to the best of your ability.

Keep a journal to trace exposure

This concept of heightened awareness also plays into tracking your personal health by recording daily temperature checks, activities or outings and how you're generally feeling to trace possible exposures. Along with jotting down your temperature each morning, you'll want to write down what you did the day before. Did you go out to lunch or to a packed bar? Did you see friends, family or coworkers?

It's important to record how you're feeling each morning, too. Did you wake up with a headache or nasal drip? Did you feel completely normal? "I'd put anything out of the ordinary in the calendar," says Dr. Gershon, "that way you can look back 7 to 10 days and see if anything varies."

Aside from loading up on hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes, here are some clever products based on Dr. Gershon's advice that you'll want to keep at your work desk.

Expert-recommended sanitization products for work

2021-2024 Monthly Pocket Planner

One of Dr. Gershon's top recommendations for returning to work is keeping a detailed daily journal on your temperature, general health and outings. "This will help you if you think you've been exposed," says Dr. Gershon. This pocket planner can be easily transported and has three full years of space to journal.

Handy Non-Touch Door Opener

Do you hate touching public bathroom doors as much as we do? Bring this lightweight keychain with you so you'll never need to worry about touching them. Dr. Gershon said if you don't have a contraption like this one, using a paper towel to open bathroom and office doors is the way to go — just remember to dispose of it right after you use it.

Pure Enrichment PureZone 3-in-1 HEPA Air Purifier

"Keep as much ventilation going [in your office space] as you can," says Dr. Gershon. "If you can spring for an individual HEPA filter unit, I've read the research and it can absolutely help."

This HEPA air purifier promises to eliminate 99.97% of particles in the air and features an automatic timer and a filter reset indicator. Your purchase includes a five-year warranty, too.

Disinfectant Mist Gun

Disinfect a large area in no time with this mist gun. Simply fill the 800ml container with your favorite disinfectant and this battery-powered gun will spray the mist over wide surfaces. Dr. Gershon highly recommends fully disinfecting items you touch regularly like your keyboard, mouse and door handles every morning when you arrive and every evening before you leave.

SENSIVO Wristband Hand Sanitizer

"For direct contact spread diseases, we know we need to keep our hands contaminate-free," says Gershon. "Wash [your hands] or use hand gel as often as you can."

Keep sanitizer at your fingertips with this wearable hand sanitizer bracelet. Simply fill with your favorite hand sanitizer and you can keep germs at bay wherever you are.

DearSoho Face Mask Chain

Are you forgetful when it comes to remembering your mask? Get a stylish mask chain! This one is a bestseller on Etsy and comes in 17 different styles. "It's so easy to contaminate your mask [or] to lose your mask, so just keep it on a lanyard," says Dr. Gershon.

Best sanitization products for work, according to reviews

Touchless Forehead Thermometer

In order to track your temperature every day, you'll want to make sure you have a quality thermometer. like this one with over 32,000 five-star ratings on Amazon. Get one for your desk and for your home!

CleanBlock Pen Cleaner

Eliminate unwanted germs with this easy-to-use pen cleaner. Simply slide your pens through a 70% Ethanol solution and they come out sanitized on the other end. It's reusable up to 1,400 times and the box itself can mount on a wall or sit on your desk.

One reviewer who gave this cleaner a perfect five stars said, "We have been using this since before Covid and now using even more with Covid. Our office staff and patients really enjoy having this."

Munchkin Portable UV Sterilizer and Sanitizer Box

With almost 2,000 five-star ratings on Amazon, this portable sanitizer box uses UV light to kill 99.99% of germs and bacteria. It's small enough to keep in your office drawer or to fit in your bag. Note: You will need three AA batteries to power it on-the-go.

Reusable Antimicrobial Finished Face Mask

Face masks aren't disappearing anytime soon, including this Jaanuu mask with over 20,000 five-star ratings. This five-pack of reusable ones features antimicrobial technology, which prevents the growth of mold, mildew and bacteria on the mask. They're supposed to be extremely comfortable, too — the fabric is moisture-wicking and the inside is lined with mesh.

OptiPlus Anti-Fog Lens Wipes

Those who have to wear a mask and glasses know how annoying the constant fogging can be. Eliminate that issue with these anti-fog lens wipes! Over 2,000 Amazon shoppers agree: This is definitely a convenience buy.

CDC Vaccine Card Protector

Don't lose your vaccine card on the way from your home to the office. For less than $7, you can protect your card from theft, wear and tear and germs.

Sharper Image® Travel Sanitizing Wand

Measuring just eight inches long and four inches wide, this portable sanitizing wand uses UV-C light to kill 99% of germs on surfaces.

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