As a third of workers feel returning will negatively impact their mental health, how can managers and team leaders help their staff return safely? Chris Biggs, Managing Director of Theta Financial Reporting, gives his advice on how to bring teams back into the office
In a BBC report released today fifty of the biggest UK employers have said they have no plans to return all staff to the office full-time in the near future. 24 of the firms questioned said that they did not have any plans in place to return workers to the office. However, 20 have opened their offices for staff unable to work from home. According to the BBC, it questioned 50 big employers ranging from banks to retailers to get a sense of when they expected to ask employees to return to the office.
One of the main reasons given for the lack of a substantial return was that firms could not see a way of accommodating large numbers of staff while social distancing regulations were still in place. Many companies said they were offering choice and flexibility to those who want to return, particularly in the banking and finance sectors. A few firms have already announced they have no plans to return to the office until late autumn, and Facebook has said it does not plan a return of employees until July 2021.
This comes as JP Morgan and Linklaters have told their staff that working from home will continue. JP Morgan told London employees that they will continue to work remotely on a part-time basis while the law firm Linklaters told its teams they would be free to work from home for up to half of the week.
With many businesses looking to bring teams back either from furlough or from an extended period of working from home, nationally representative research from Theta Financial Reporting across 2,000 UK workers found that 35% of Brits say going back to work in a traditional office environment will have a negative impact on their mental health, which in turn will negatively affect their productivity.
· Nearly three-quarters of Londoners – 70% – do not feel comfortable commuting to work via public transport anymore and think it will be one of the most stressful parts of their day
· 57% of people in London do not want to go back to the normal way of working in an office environment with normal office hours
· Over a third of Londoners – 36% – say their company will return to the office with a smaller team with people handling more varied responsibilities
Chris Biggs, managing director of Theta Financial Reporting has given his advice employers looking to bring their staff back safely:
"Employees are obviously concerned about returning to work but if you are bringing your team back, there are some steps you should take:
Ask your team
First of all, get the input of the team. Businesses should look to gauge their employee's attitudes on how they want to work going forward, their concerns and desires. A collaborative approach will be far more beneficial to the company than forcing a decision made onto people without consultation.
A new working model?
Second, you should consider a mixed model moving forward, with some home working and some office-based work. Mixing shift patterns carefully and in a coordinated fashion will help distance staff and make them feel safer. Office spaces may need redesigning, allowing staff to collaborate safely, and office hours may need to change to avoid peak travel hours.
Third, make sure your safety and safeguarding measures are robust. Ensure you have hand sanitizer in the office at all times, appropriate social distancing and temperature measurements, but be aware to adhere to data protection and GDPR rules if you plan to gather information such as the temperatures of employees. These steps should help team members feel safer and ?more confident about returning to the office."