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More holidays and free lunches: now get back to work

UK companies are spending more than £670 million every month to encourage workers to return to offices, but they’re not buying it.

In what is touted as the largest survey of its kind, British healthcare technology company Huma discovered a huge disconnect in communication and trust between employers and employees on ‘return to work’ attitudes post-lockdown.

While almost half of workplaces said they would be ready to accommodate staff back in the office before the end of August, 54% of employees were reluctant to return because of the risk of contracting Covid-19 and passing it on to family and friends.

Huge cost of making offices safe 

Employers reported spending £674 million a month to ensure a safe workplace, equivalent to £58.55 on average per employee per month. They have rushed to put in place various plans and procedures, with new hygiene protocols, socially distant layouts, and staggered work shifts.

Some bosses are offering incentives to lure wary workers out of their home offices, from extra holidays to free lunches at work and paying for their commuting costs.

However, worryingly, only one in five businesses feel suitably informed on the exact policies and procedures they need to have in place to ensure a safe working environment for their employees, underlining why workers remain dubious.

Of the employees who have returned to work, 57% are not confident with the measures in place to ensure their safety and well-being. The same applies to people who have not returned yet. This is possibly why almost a third felt their health and safety would be compromised in the workplace.

The study by Huma, formerly known as Medopad, surveyed 5,000 UK workers and 2,000 UK companies with a minimum turnover of £100,000 in July and August.

Different concerns

Employers understandably fear the biggest disruption to restarting their business operations will be the willingness of more staff to return to the workplace owing to safety concerns.

And, while most employers believe that it is the responsibility of employees to self-report health concerns, citing resource constraints, 70% are willing to pay for Covid-19 tests if employees request them.  

Meanwhile, although employees saw the workplace itself as the lowest risk if they returned to work, they were most worried about interacting with other commuters (29%) and co-workers (24%) as well as being in meetings (23%).

Addressing the communication gap

The research shows employers have to find more effective ways to talk to their staff.
Less than a quarter of workers felt fully informed about the new safety protocols and procedures at their workplace, and less than a quarter of businesses prioritised communicating these changes.

And, although both workers and bosses are generally willing to comply with a Covid-19 tracking system, there are hurdles to making this a reality. The study found, while two thirds of workers would be comfortable with their employers tracking symptoms, and nine in ten businesses would be willing to do so, they don’t have the resources, so will encourage employees to self-report.

Dan Vahdat, founder and CEO of Huma, said the communication breakdown was possibly delaying economic recovery. “Trust building is now more critical than ever,” he said.

“Bosses are spending millions and feel they are doing a lot to ensure their workplace is a safe environment for staff, but they are more concerned about people interaction than the actual workplace. The common ground on monitoring and tracking the health and well-being of people in the workplace seems to be the solution.”

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