Lidia Morawska has been working in her office for months. You might think that’s because she’s an aerosols expert, and her work is crucial for helping bring the pandemic to heel. But really, it’s because she’s an aerosols expert at Queensland University of Technology, in Australia. The country has recorded only three cases of community transmission of the coronavirus in the past week. Although Australian offices and classrooms have lowered their maximum capacities and are still observing social-distancing guidelines, Morawska told me, no one wears a mask to work, except in the rare case of a local outbreak. “Basically, life is back to normal,” she said.
Still, going back to work took some adjustment at first. “It felt strange,” Morawska said. “It was that feeling [of being] in between. What’s real? What’s not?”
Many Americans may soon have the chance to experience such a surreal return to work. With an average of nearly 50,000 cases reported per day over the past week, the United States is still far from a full return to the fluorescent-lit, slightly coffee-scented glory of pre-pandemic work. But now that the majority of adults have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, time in the office likely feels imminent for the millions of workers who went remote during the pandemic. Several of the nation’s largest companies have announced that, between May and September, they’ll begin asking employees to work in person at least some of the time. In a survey conducted late last year, three-qu ..