Addressing the Fear Factor

As Boris Johnson briefs those who can’t work from home to return to their normal work environments, anxiety and stress levels have increased when it comes to the changes that lie ahead – and how well we’re prepared for them.

A survey carried out by workplace consultant and psychology expert, WKSpace has revealed that 74 per cent of office workers would like to know the exact details of social distancing measures in the workplace before they return to the work environment. The same survey also showed that over 40 per cent of us are concerned about using public transport – necessary to so many to get to and from the office.

This fear is playing its part in shaping the current daily news agenda and is driven by uncertainty. We don’t know how coming out of lockdown will play out and there is no single clear directive, as yet.

Almost 17,000 workers in the UK took part in WKSpace’s survey, which was carried out between the end of March and the second week of May, making it one of the most credible pieces of data available on the topic at this point in time.

It certainly gives some insight to how many of us view our places of work, in the wake of this pandemic, and reflects our concerns – and preferences – for what the future of work might look like.

So, how can we effectively manage the return to the workplace, while providing reassurance and peace of mind?

Working from home during lockdown

The long held belief that working from home is not as productive and equates to slacking has certainly been smashed by the initial stage of complete lockdown.

Many office workers have completed this period without any forewarning and with other members of the family, including young children, in the house. Despite the circumstances, they have managed to be equally, if not more, productive during this challenging time.

According to WKSpace, almost 50 per cent of those who took place in its survey state that they have preferred working from home and there is a general supposition –  from survey results, media forecasts and word of mouth – that more people can and will work from home in the medium to long-term and that this should most definitely be an option going forward.

The time to communicate

WKSpace’s survey considered communication and support from management in relation to working from home. Over three quarters of those surveyed had found it to be good to excellent – and this needs to be kept up as we enter the next stage.

The key to good communication is to listen and businesses have to listen to what their members of staff want, what will make them feel comfortable and how they choose to work as we move forward.

Of those surveyed, 61 % of employees were confident that their managers would take their working preferences into account. This number needs to be higher.

Embracing the new normal

The workspace has to be prepped and ready to embrace the new normal.

Individuals need to be consulted to find out what they feel comfortable with; government guidelines, when agreed, need to be absorbed and managers need to be confident that they are sending those who are happy to return to the office into a safe and comfortable working environment.

The British Chamber of Commerce has stated that clear guidance on PPE and social distancing is vital, while the director general of the Institute of Directors has also called for clarity, pointing out that business directors hold ultimate legal responsibility to ensure that their workplaces are safe.

We will all be taking note of the briefings and documents that relate to businesses that emerge from Downing Street in the coming days. Ultimately, however, we will have to take responsibility for the care and wellbeing of our own teams as we move forward. It certainly isn’t ‘one size fits all’ and will have to be worked through with proper and thorough consultation.

For advice on returning to the workplace, contact Office Principles on theteam@officeprinciples.com