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IWFM research reveals many employees are anxious about returning to the office

According to a YouGov poll for the Institute of Workplace and Facilities Management (IWFM) many office workers are concerned about going back to the office as lockdown measures begin to ease.

The poll surveyed office workers across the country to reveal that over a third (34 per cent) are concerned about getting used to a corporate office culture again after the lockdown, with worries rife over being able to maintain social distancing (59 per cent) and appropriate hygiene and cleaning standards (44 per cent).

Publicised as the government looks to assemble ‘Back to Work’ Guidelines for a range of sectors, the research found that despite these concerns – half (49 per cent) of the UK’s employees now working from home are looking forward to getting back to the office. A working-from-home model has presented significant challenges to the workforce, including:

  • Forty-one per cent report having an inappropriate working environment at home. Only a quarter (24 per cent) benefit from a separate home office, with two-thirds (64 per cent) resorting to make-shift workstations at dining room tables, sofas and beds.
  • Maintaining productivity, with half (50 per cent) reporting finding it difficult to stay motivated and focused when working from home, and 44 per cent facing challenges with distractions in the home. Those working from sofas and armchairs are taking a productivity hit – with 18 per cent reporting a lack of motivation and over a quarter (25 per cent) working fewer hours per day than they did in the office.
  • Working from home is blurring lines between work and personal life. Thirty-eight per cent find it hard to switch off at the end of the day and a quarter (25 per cent) feel pressure to respond to emails after working hours. Sixty-two per cent miss a clear separation between work and home life, and 40 per cent miss a clear structure to the day.
  • Social isolation is also a concern – with face-to-face interaction with colleagues the number one thing employees miss about office life (72 per cent).

Chris Moriarty, Director of Insight at the Institute of Workplace and Facilities Management commented: “As lockdown measures begin to ease, government and business attention is turning to the mammoth task of how, and when, to get employees across the UK safely back to work. Ensuring cleanliness and distance between colleagues will be high on the agenda – as will managing the implications of a workforce coming out of lockdown under increased levels of stress and anxiety.

“Yet there are wider challenges at play – it would be naïve to assume that ‘business as usual’ will look the same post-crisis, and many are considering the long-term implications of this national experiment in home working.  Businesses looking to cut costs, or respond to increased employee demand for flexible working, need also consider the implications to the nation’s productivity of allowing employees to work from home without investing in an adequate home-working environment.

“Those parked up on sofas and on dining room tables are missing the connectivity and productivity of an office environment more than those with dedicated home-office setups.  When lockdown is lifted, and we see limits to the number of people allowed within an office building at any one time, businesses may look to use employee’s homework set up as a criteria for who should return, and when.

“The key thing is that businesses are mindful not to treat home versus office working as a binary choice but part of a strategic approach to support work wherever it can best take place. They should look to strike a balance between providing compelling reasons to return to a corporate space with flexible working policies and an investment in supporting a productive home-working set up.”

“Workplace and facilities managers hold the key both to preparing buildings ready for reoccupation within new limits and to helping their organisations adjust to a new set of operating norms. The ‘super-connector’ professionalism that facilities professionals offer in bringing together the space, culture and technology aspects of work into a workplace strategy can enable organisations and individuals to remain productive.”

The research was conducted by the IWFM as part of its ‘Return to the Workplace’ campaign – which will cumulate in June with a report on the impact of the Covid-19 crisis on UK employees.

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