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Top fears Brits have about returning to the office after the Covid lockdown

More than half of British workers would be happy to never return to the office – due to fears of germs, a lack of social distancing and being in a room with lots of other people.

A study of 1,000 employees currently working from home found two thirds would also feel uncomfortable about going back into their workplace full time.

Nearly six in 10 (56 per cent) feel anxious at the thought of being back in the office and 46 per cent are apprehensive, while 24 per cent are even feeling stressed.

Other worries include lack of personal space (39 per cent), colleagues not using hand sanitiser or soap (27 per cent) and not enough communal cleaning (27 per cent).

Having to commute topped the list of anxieties (51 per cent), followed by less flexible working (43 per cent) and social distancing not being taken seriously (42 per cent).

Someone cleaning an office
Brits are worried about their offices having germs

Of those polled, 28 per cent will travel to work on public transport, with 77 per cent of them being concerned about the cleanliness of the tube, bus or train.

Zac Hemming, founding firector for Ice Cleaning, which commissioned the study, said: “There is clearly some fear around going back to the office after settling into working from home during this past year.

“Hygiene is going to be at the front of people’s minds more than ever and seemingly normal things from ‘previous’ life such as making tea rounds, sharing desks and using communal toilets might feel daunting.

“It’s important both employees and employers feel supported in making the journey back to the office as smooth as possible.

Employees in an office with masks on
People are concerned about a number of aspects of returning to the office, including social distancing

“Cleaning is going to become much more of a priority for workplaces.”

The study also found that to combat their anxieties, new habits workers vow to take on include carrying hand sanitiser (47 per cent), wearing a mask (45 per cent) and cleaning their own desk daily (41 per cent).

They would also like their employer to implement sanitising pumps around the building (56 per cent).

Half of those polled also want social distancing between desks (50 per cent), with four out of 10 also wanting a monthly decontamination deep clean as part of their office cleaning regime.

It also emerged seven in 10 would only feel comfortable returning to work if strict cleanliness rules were in place, with a quarter (25 per cent) wanting their offices professionally cleaned daily to feel safe.

People on a Tube train
Some people feel worried about travelling to and from work

And upon reflection, 45 per cent do not think their office was clean enough prior to the pandemic.

But four in five generally feel safer and cleaner when working from home.

In an ideal world, employees would only be based in the office on two days out of the five-day working week, and 70 per cent only want themselves and their colleagues to return to work once they have been vaccinated.

The research, carried out via OnePoll, also found workers think it will take four weeks of being back in the office for it to feel ‘normal’ again.

Until that point, workers think being in the workplace instead of their own home will seem strange (45 per cent), uncomfortable (28 per cent) and surreal (23 per cent).

Woman cleaning an office
45 per cent of people said returning to the office will be strange to them

More than three in five also admitted they will likely struggle to get used to a new routine when they return to their place of work.

Zac added: “After a year of working from home and adjusting to a new routine, it’s normal that people will have worries about returning to work.

“What’s important is giving employees the reassurance and peace of mind that this is being taken seriously, easing any concerns that people might have whilst also creating a positive, clean and safe workplace.”

Top 40 anxieties office workers have about returning to their workplace:

1. Having to commute there and back
2. Less flexible working
3. Social distancing not being taken seriously
4. Having to get up extra early
5. Being in a room with lots of people
6. Getting home late
7. Having to wear a mask
8. Lack of personal space
9. Having to use the office toilets
10. Touching door handles that other people have touched
11. Lack of fresh air e.g. windows not being open
12. Spending money e.g. on the commute or on lunch/coffee
13. Having to sit in traffic
14. Having to dress presentably
15. Face to face meetings
16. Others not using hand sanitizer/soap

Woman cleaning an office
There are lots of anxieties around cleaning the office

17. Lack of communal cleaning e.g. desks not being cleaned regularly
18. Getting on public transport
19. Distractions from colleagues or other noise
20. Having to share the office kitchen e.g. prepping lunch with lots of people around
21. Unable to fit in household chores around working
22. Unable to be home for deliveries/ post
23. Having to start on time e.g. my set hours
24. Unable to get as much work done as I would do at home
25. Lack of free time to go for a walk
26. Having to make small talk
27. Having to sit in one place all day instead of between my sofa, my desk, my kitchen etc
28. Being unable to listen to music or watch TV while working
29. Having to prepare lunch e.g. take food in with me
30. Lack of cleaning supplies e.g. anti-bac wipes
31. Seeing less of my family/ housemates
32. Unable to fit in exercise
33. Having to wear shoes all day e.g. not slippers
34. Having to use the communal printer
35. Being uncomfortable on my office chair
36. Lack of hand sanitizer
37. Having to share cutlery/ mugs/ utensils
38. Having to eat at set times
39. Having to share stationery
40. Having to drink the provided tea and coffee, rather than use my coffee machine at home.

Top 10 new rules office workers would like their place of work to implement:

1. Hand sanitiser pumps around the building
2. A daily cleaning regime including regular cleaning of desks and communal areas
3. Social distancing between desks
4. Providing anti-bacterial wipes
5. Windows open or on-latch to allow fresh air
6. Monthly decontamination deep clean
7. Staff to wear masks
8. Staggered start and finish times
9. Masks provided
10. Limited amount of people in lifts



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