Thursday 13 August 2020 10:49 am

Brits optimistic about returning to work despite safety concerns

British workers are largely optimistic about returning to the office, though concerns remain over whether employers will put the right safety measures in place.

Just under half of UK employees said they felt positive about going back to work, while less than one in five said they felt negative, according to a new survey.

Read more: PwC boss Kevin Ellis: returning to work like ‘crossing the Rubicon for some people…you have got to make them feel safe’

The findings paint an upbeat picture for businesses that have supported their staff during the lockdown through regular communication and appropriate risk management in the workplace.

The study of 2,000 employed UK adults, commissioned by Aviva, found 61 per cent of those returning to work believe their employer will ensure the office is a safe environment to work in.

However, the survey showed companies that have failed to take appropriate measures may pay the price.

Thirty-five per cent of respondents said they did not trust their bosses to keep them safe and said they may not return to work at all.

The study also revealed a sharp disparity in attitudes towards returning to work between different age groups, regions and industries.

Just 29 per cent of 16 to 24-year-olds said they were worried about being infected by colleagues, compared to 44 per cent across all age groups.

Conversely, young workers were the most concerned about the impact of the coronavirus lockdown on their mental health.

It follows a survey by recruitment firm Robert Walters showing a third of employees felt their mental health and wellbeing had suffered as a result of working longer hours during the lockdown.

The Aviva study also showed varying levels of concern by region — with workers in London citing greater concern about getting to work than being in the office itself.

Concern about commuting by public transport was noted by nearly half of all respondents in Greater London — more than any other area of concern.

Industry also played an important role in employee attitudes, with healthcare workers citing the lowest level of concern about infection from colleagues.

This was contrasted with the construction sector, where 60 per cent of employees said they were worried about infection.

“As Britain gets back to business after lockdown, employees want to know that their employers have taken all the necessary steps, and what those steps are,” said Chris Andrews, head of risk management solutions at Aviva.

“That means not just taking action but engaging with employees on their concerns and clearly communicating what is in place and addressing anything that remains unresolved.”

He added: “Whether devising safe working conditions in a factory, or ensuring orderly social distance in a retail setting, businesses need to consider how they will minimise the risk of infection for their employees and their customers.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson last week encouraged Brits to return to work in a bid to kickstart the UK’s ailing economy.

Read more: UK workers slowest in Europe to return to the office

The UK has lagged far behind its European neighbours in going back to work, with a later lockdown and higher death toll restricting a full return to the office.

Analysis published last week by Morgan Stanley’s research unit Alphawise revealed that just over one-third of UK white-collar employees have returned to work since the lockdown, compared to almost three-quarters of staff in Europe.

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