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Vaccine rollout key to getting workers back in offices

The majority of UK workers say they won’t feel safe returning to their workplaces until their colleagues have been vaccinated, according to a recent study.

A Randstad survey of 27,000 workers in 34 countries found that UK workers were more fearful than average about contracting Covid-19 at work. Some 72% of UK workers were worried about returning to work before others around them had been vaccinated, 19% higher than the global average.

Almost two-thirds (63%) said they would prefer to work from home until the vaccine has been widely distributed.

However, Victoria Short, CEO of Randstad UK said: “While remote working has its benefits, teams are missing out on extra shared learnings, mentoring, spontaneous meetings and ideation sessions which are typically trickier to do virtually.

“With three in five UK adults now vaccinated and with restrictions lifting, it’s the perfect time to navigate safely back to the workplace, and take advantage of the increasing job opportunities we are seeing as the demand for talent rises.”

Strong desire to return
The good news for employers is that more than three-quarters of Brits said they were keen to go back to their physical workplace, at least part- if not full-time.

Respondents reported feelings of isolation, the inability to strike a healthy work-life balance and a longing for personal connections as some of the key drivers of the desire to return to workplaces. More than half (52%) of Brits said they missed in-person interactions with their colleagues, and one in five said their productivity had dropped due to difficulties with working remotely. 

However, a quarter of respondents said they’d actually become more productive and in addition, 48% of UK respondents said their work experience during the pandemic had motivated them to stay with their current employer for the long term.

Short said: “Despite employees putting in more hours working from home, 77% are still satisfied with their job, and we can only expect this number to rise once we return to the workplace or hybrid working environments, which we know the majority desire.”

Is a hybrid model the answer?

Indeed, while most want to return to their workplace, they do not want to do so in the same manner as before the pandemic – 56% said they enjoyed having a hybrid approach and being able to choose their workplace.

In fact, the hybrid model could provide the answer to appeasing employees’ concerns over the virus and helping them achieve a better work-life balance, said Sridhar Iyengar, Managing Director at Zoho Europe.

“It is no surprise that UK office workers have anxieties around catching Covid from their colleagues by returning to the workplace. It is likely that many businesses will cut back on using office spaces and should be considerate about helping to manage employee comfort levels, if they are worried.

“Perhaps the best option, already considered by many, including some huge global companies, is to introduce a hybrid working model which sees workers operate from a part-home, part-office environment. This would reduce the number of staff members in a work space at one time and should decrease the risk of infection spread through contact and surfaces.

“The hybrid working model could be a long-term shift for many companies after this pandemic, and is an option which brings benefits such as flexibility and wellbeing improvements.”

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