It’s Back to Work – But Do We Trust Our Colleagues?

Back to Work

As the government and employers begin to encourage workers to return to physical workplaces, it’s back to work for many in the country – but we do trust our colleagues to follow the new COVID-19 measures being put in place?

Whilst there will be a sense of relief for many furloughed workers who will be returning to work this month, there is in equal amounts, a feeling of anxiety and concern for those who have got used to their home surroundings whilst the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted most of the world.

Some of the factors which could cause employees heading back to work to feel anxious are covered in a new research study by Moneypenny, who surveyed 1,000 office workers for their true thoughts on how they feel about returning to the workplace.

Back to Work Across the Country

Moneypenny’s study indicates that there is still a split when it comes to the amount of people who are already back at work and those who are still waiting to return to the office, as the breakdown below highlights:

45% have already returned to their workplace following lockdown.
• 31% have received confirmation that they can go back to work within the next 1-4 months.
• 18% haven’t been given a date/day on when they will return.
• 5% have been told they won’t be going back to work until January 2021 at the earliest.

Looking geographically within the UK, there is also some variation when it comes different regions have being informed on plans for them to go back to work.

The survey found that offices and businesses located in the North East and East Midlands were the most likely areas that workers had returned to physical workplaces in, compared to the East of England and Scotland, which contained the highest percentage of workers that have yet to be informed on their return date.

COVID-19 Concerns

The survey also found that not only is there a variance in when parts of the country will be returning to work, but that there were also different opinions on worker attitudes when they head back to work too.

48% of those asked said that they had concerns about the current COVID-19 risks at their place of work and how their colleagues would react to the new measures being put in place, with a lower percentage of 34% of workers stating they feel comfortable about heading back to work.

For those who have concerns and worries about returning to work, the findings suggest that several factors relating to attitudes of colleagues could be the leading cause, including:

Mask Usage – just 15% of workers in Yorkshire commented that masks had been made compulsory on all areas of their workplace.

• Commuting – 66% of those surveyed said they are choosing to take their own cars to travel to work instead of public transport.

• Colleagues Using Masks at Work – Whilst 37% said that they had no issue with wearing a mask whilst at work, 36% expressed that wearing a mask throughout the work day would prove to be too much, with 13% accepting of wearing a mask but only if it is a short term solution.

• Staggered Shifts – 61% of workers have already been introduced to staggered starts, but 16% indicated that they still don’t trust their colleagues to correctly social distance in the workplace.

• Sharing Equipment – An equal number of those surveyed were in favour of and against sharing office equipment and stationery, with 31% of workers stating their employer had put a ban on sharing supplies between colleagues completely.

• Making Drinks – 48% suggested they are still comfortable with making teas and coffees for colleagues but 40% say they will only make drinks for colleagues that are close to them and that they trust. In contrast, 38% say they will refuse to take part in tea/drinks rounds completely.

Addressing Worker Worries

In order to reassure workers that going back to work will be treat with the utmost in safety and precaution, Peter Cheese, chief executive of the CIPD, recommends that any returns to the workplace should only be made based on a mutual agreement between employee and employer, but only if it is safe and considered essential.

“Working from home has proved to be a great success for many individuals and organizations.

Recent CIPD research found that a majority of employers believe that homeworkers are either as productive as other workers, or more productive.

However, it’s important that all employers take steps to support their employees’ mental health and address concerns they may have while they work from home.

Managers should be regularly checking in with their staff, discussing their wellbeing and wherever possible ensuring decisions over working from home or returning to the workplace are based on individual choice and preference.”

Cheese adds:

“Effective test and trace is also key for a safe return to workplaces and people who are asked to self-isolate should receive adequate compensation so they don’t lose out financially.”

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Sam Rose