Many UK employees are concerned about the health implications of returning to the office post-lockdown.
Among office-based employees who are working from home during the coronavirus, 59 per cent are worried about being able to maintain social distancing, and nearly half (44 per cent) are concerned about hygiene and cleaning standards in the office.
The YouGov poll, for the Institute of Workplace and Facilities Management, surveyed office workers across the country to reveal that over a third (34 per cent) are concerned about getting used to a corporate office culture again after the lockdown.
Publicised as the government looks to assemble ‘Back to Work’ Guidelines for a range of sectors, the research found that despite these concerns –- half (49 per cent) of the UK’s employees now working from home are looking forward to getting back to the office. A working-from-home model has presented significant challenges to the workforce, including:
● 41 per cent report having an inappropriate working environment at home. Only a quarter (24 per cent) benefit from a separate home office, with two-thirds (64 per cent) resorting to makeshift workstations on dining room tables, sofas and beds.
● Maintaining productivity is tough, with half (50 per cent) reporting finding it difficult to stay motivated and focused when working from home, and 44 per cent face challenges with distractions. Those working from sofas and armchairs are taking a productivity hit – 18 per cent report a lack of motivation and over a quarter (25 per cent) say they work fewer hours a day than they did in the office.
● Working from home is blurring lines between work and personal life. About 38 per cent find it hard to switch off at the end of the day and a quarter (25 per cent) feel pressure to respond to emails after working hours, 62 per cent miss a clear separation between work and home life, and 40 per cent miss a clear structure to the day.
● Social isolation is also a concern – and face-to-face interaction with colleagues is the number one thing employees miss about office life (72 per cent).
Chris Moriarty, director of insight at the Institute of Workplace and Facilities Management, said: “As lockdown measures begin to ease, government and business attention is turning to the mammoth task of how, and when, to get employees across the UK safely back to work. Ensuring cleanliness and distance between colleagues will be high on the agenda – as will managing the implications of a workforce coming out of lockdown under increased levels of stress and anxiety.
“Yet there are wider challenges at play – it would be naïve to assume that ‘business as usual’ will look the same post-crisis, and many are considering the long-term implications of this national experiment in home working. Businesses looking to cut costs, or respond to increased employee demand for flexible working, need also consider the implications to the nation’s productivity of allowing employees to work from home without investing in an adequate homeworking environment.”
Moriarty said: “The key thing is that businesses are mindful not to treat home versus office working as a binary choice but part of a strategic approach to support work wherever it can best take place,”
This is possible by looking at striking “a balance between providing compelling reasons to return to a corporate space with flexible working policies and investment in supporting a productive homeworking set-up”.
A separate survey by the CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development, has found that 44 per cent of employees felt anxious about returning to their workplace.
Using a sample of 1,000 employees, the survey, carried out by YouGov for the CIPD, highlights the need for businesses to be thinking about their people in every decision they make for the return to the workplace.
The survey also shows:
•44 per cent of employees agreed that they felt anxieties about returning to their workplace because of Covid-19 – and 37 per cent disagreed that they were anxious about returning.
•31 per cent were anxious about commuting to work, in contrast with just over half (54 per cent) who were not anxious about the commute. However, those based in London were far more likely than other parts of the UK to have concerns about this, with 52 per cent citing anxiety about commuting to work because of Covid-19.
The body urges businesses to work closely with their employees through open, transparent communication and consultation when looking at a return to the workplace. It says decisions should not be rushed and a mutual understanding between employer and employee should be reached. This approach would minimise the inherent risk of conflict and stress with so many uncertainties remaining, and increase respect and trust between both parties.