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, according to new research.
A study of 1,000 employees who are currently working from home, carried out via OnePoll for cleaning specialist, ICE Cleaning, found two thirds would also feel uncomfortable about going back into their workplace full time.
Worries include lack of personal space (39 per cent), colleagues not using hand sanitiser or soap (27 per cent) and not enough communal cleaning (27 per cent).
Zac Hemming, Founding Director for ICE Cleaning said: “There is clearly some fear around going back to the office after settling into working from home during this past year.
“Hygiene is 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.”
Nearly six in 10 (56 per cent) feel anxious at the thought of being back in the office and 46 per cent are apprehensive, while 24 per cent are even feeling stressed.
The study also found that to combat their anxieties, new habits workers vow to take on include carrying hand sanitiser (47 per cent), wearing a mask (45 per cent) and cleaning their own desk daily (41 per cent).
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 per cent). Half of those polled also want social distancing between desks (50 per cent), with four out of 10 also wanting a monthly decontamination deep clean as part of their office cleaning regime.
It also emerged seven in 10 would only feel comfortable returning to work if strict cleanliness rules were in place, with a quarter (25 per cent) wanting their offices professionally cleaned daily to feel safe. And upon reflection, 45 per cent do not think their office was clean enough prior to the pandemic.
In an ideal world, employees would only be based in the office on two days out of the five-day working week, with 70 per cent only wanting themselves and their colleagues to return to work once they have been vaccinated.
Hemming added: “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.”
- Hand sanitiser pumps around the building
- A daily cleaning regime including regular cleaning of desks and communal areas
- Social distancing between desks
- Providing anti-bacterial wipes
- Windows open or on-latch to allow fresh air
- Monthly decontamination deep clean
- Staff to wear masks
- Staggered start and finish times
- Masks provided
- Limited amount of people in lifts
Top tips for building owners / 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.