National Survey Reveals Brits Fear Return To The Office

Friday 16th April 2021

Sophie Rioch

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More than half of British workers would be happy to never return to the office – due to fears of germs, a lack of social distancing and being in a room with lots of other people.

A study of 1,000 employees who are currently working from home found two thirds would also feel uncomfortable about going back into their workplace full time. Nearly 6 in 10 (56%) feel anxious at the thought of being back in the office and 46% are apprehensive, while 24% are even feeling stressed.

Other worries include lack of personal space (39%), colleagues not using hand sanitizer or soap (27%) and not enough communal cleaning (27%). Having to commute topped the list of anxieties (51%), followed by less flexible working (43%) and social distancing not being taken seriously (42%). Of those polled, 28% will travel to work on public transport, with 77% of them being concerned about the cleanliness of the tube, bus or train.

“There is clearly some fear around going back to the office after settling into working from home during this past year. Germs are going to be at the front of people’s minds more than ever and seemingly normal things from ‘previous’ life, such as making tea rounds, sharing desks and using communal toilets might feel daunting. It’s important both employees and employers feel supported in making the journey back to the office as smooth as possible. Cleaning is going to become much more of a priority for workplaces.” 

- Zac Hemming, Founding Director of ICE Cleaning

The study also found that to combat their anxieties, new habits workers vow to take on include carrying hand sanitizer (47%), wearing a mask (45 per cent) and cleaning their own desk daily (41%). They would also like their employer to implement sanitising pumps around the building (56 per cent) and have a daily cleaning regime for communal areas (51%). 

Half of those polled also want social distancing between desks (50%), with 4 out of 10 also wanting a monthly decontamination deep clean as part of their office cleaning regime. It also emerged 7 in 10 would only feel comfortable returning to work if strict cleanliness rules were in place, with a quarter (25%) wanting their offices professionally cleaned daily to feel safe.

Upon reflection, 45% do not think their office was clean enough prior to the pandemic. But 4 in 5 generally feel safer and cleaner when working from home.

In an ideal world, employees would only be based in the office on 2 days out of the 5-day working week, with 70% only wanting themselves and their colleagues to return to work once they have been vaccinated.

The research, carried out via OnePoll, also found workers think it will take four weeks of being back in the office for it to feel ‘normal’ again. Until that point, workers think being in the workplace instead of their own home will seem strange (45%), uncomfortable (28%) and surreal (23%). More than three in five also admitted they will likely struggle to get used to a new routine when they return to their place of work.

“After a year of working from home and adjusting to a new routine, it’s normal that people will have worries about returning to work. What’s important is giving employees the reassurance and peace of mind that this is being taken seriously, easing any concerns that people might have whilst also creating a positive, clean and safe workplace.”

- Zac Hemming, Founding Director of ICE Cleaning

Top 40 anxieties office workers have about returning to their workplace:

  1.     Having to commute there and back

  2.     Less flexible working

  3.     Social distancing not being taken seriously

  4.     Having to get up early

  5.     Being in a room with lots of people

  6.     Getting home late

  7.     Having to wear a mask

  8.     Lack of personal space

  9.     Having to use the office toilets

  10.     Touching door handles that other people have touched

  11.     Lack of fresh air, e.g. windows not being open

  12.     Spending money, e.g. on the commute or on lunch/coffee

  13.     Having to sit in traffic

  14.     Having to dress presentably

  15.     Face-to-face meetings

  16.     Others not using hand sanitiser/soap

  17.     Lack of communal cleaning

  18.     Getting on public transport

  19.     Distractions from colleagues or other noise

  20.     Having to share the office kitchen, e.g. prepping lunch with lots of people around 

  21.     Unable to fit in household chores around working

  22.     Unable to be home for deliveries/post

  23.     Having to start on time

  24.     Unable to get as much work done as I would do at home

  25.     Lack of free time to go for a walk

  26.     Having to make small talk 

  27.     Having to sit in one place all day instead of between my sofa, my desk, my kitchen, etc. 

  28.     Being unable to listen to music or watch TV whilst working

  29.     Having to prepare lunch, e.g. take food in with me

  30.     Lack of cleaning supplies, e.g. anti-bac wipes

  31.     Seeing less of my family/housemates

  32.     Unable to fit in exercise

  33.     Having to wear shoes all day, e.g. not slippers

  34.     Having to use the communal printer

  35.     Being uncomfortable on my office chair

  36.     Lack of hand sanitiser

  37.     Having to share cutlery/mugs/utensils

  38.     Having to eat at set times

  39.     Having to share stationery

  40.     Having to drink the provided tea and coffee, rather than using my coffee machine at home

Top 10 new rules office workers would like their place of work to implement upon returning to the office:

  1.     Hand sanitiser pumps around the building

  2.     A daily cleaning regime, including regular cleaning of desks and communal areas

  3.     Social distancing between desks

  4.     Providing anti-bacterial wipes

  5.     Windows open or on-latch to allow fresh air

  6.     Monthly decontamination deep clean

  7.     Staff to wear masks

  8.     Staggered start and finish times

  9.     Masks provided

  10.     Limited amount of people in lifts

Top tips for employers to consider with employees returning to work:

Communicating with employees – Regularly communicating with employees in a clear and concise manner will provide reassurance and improve understanding on the return to work. Sharing information such as the procedures that will be in place to keep employees safe will help them feel at ease.

Keeping the workplace clean -  Ensuring that the workplace is regularly cleaned is vital. Staff should be encouraged to frequently clean surfaces and shared equipment, whilst professional cleans should also be carried out to protect the workforce and reduce the occurrence of germs and bacteria.

Providing flexibility – Over the last year, employees will have developed their own working patterns and regimes, so it is important to be flexible and accommodating to individual needs and personal circumstances. Organising individual conversations where necessary will help ensure a smooth transition.

Maintaining two-metre social distancing – Ensure that the two-metre social distancing rule is in place where possible. Putting up signs can help remind workers and visitors of social distancing guidance, whilst reducing the footfall in smaller areas will help employees feel comfortable in their working environment.

Return of the quiz – Whilst many people want to put the Zoom quizzes firmly behind them, it is important to incorporate a level of fun and enjoyment in the return to work. Team morale might need that added boost once you meet in person, so encourage a quiz or fun activity each week.

 

Top tips for employees who might be worried about returning to work:

Take it a day at a time – It’s going to take some time to adjust to returning to work, so take it a day at a time and allow yourself some time to settle back in. Replicating your working from home routine in the office can help you adapt, without disrupting the working pattern that you have got used to over the last year.

Maintain a high level of personal hygiene – Good personal hygiene is vital in reducing the transmission of Covid-19. Frequently washing your hands throughout the day and carrying hand sanitiser with you will help protect yourself and others around you.

Speak to your boss – Communicating any concerns or worries that you have with your boss or manager will enable them to help you and provide you with support and reassurance that you need for returning to work.

Plan and prepare – Ensure that you are prepared for the return to work and have all the things that you need. Whether this is your own cutlery and mug, or hand sanitiser and masks, preparing in advance will help you feel at ease.

Enjoy catching up with your colleagues -  Returning to work will allow you to catch up properly with your colleagues and enjoy a more sociable environment once again. Discussing the return and what you are looking forward to with your colleagues can give you a more positive outlook.

Continue to social distance -  Continue to follow social distancing guidelines when you return to work, including when on breaks and during in meetings. It is also important that you feel comfortable and safe in your working environment.

ICE Cleaning offers a full range of commercial cleaning services, including office cleaning. Call 0208 066 0360 today to find out more. 

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