For many, the prospect of working from home was inviting in the beginning. The commute was the walk downstairs to the kitchen to make that morning cup of coffee and sitting in traffic became a distant memory. However, it seems for many that the novelty has worn off and they crave a return to the working ways of before. Some have welcomed a hybrid approach striking a balance between being in the office and working from home while some hanker after human interaction, grabbing lunch, gossiping around the coffee machine, and even welcoming the endless meetings that weren’t on Zoom.
Is Everyone Back in the Office?
Looking at the statistics, it would seem that car journeys are pretty much almost at the levels they were before we had even heard of Covid. This is not yet the case for public transport including Tube, National Rail, and TFL so what does this mean? Are people choosing the ‘safety of their car over risking getting on a train or those central office workers still working from home? The stats could suggest that those offices that are accessible by car have seen a greater return than the metropolitan city centre offices or that people are choosing walking or cycling as a way of getting to work.
What Are the Expectations?
While the rest of the UK is being encouraged to work from home, Boris is actively encouraging workers to return to the office in a bid to help those city centre companies that have struggled during the last 18 months. Of course, the sooner everyone returns to the office, the sooner the furlough scheme can end and the government can start pulling back on the millions it has spent on this campaign. The wheels need to keep on turning and the sooner we can return (safely) to what we are used to, the better for most.
Do You Have to Return to the Office?
While you can ask your employer if you want to keep working from home, they don’t have to accommodate this. If your contract specifies that you work from a particular location then it is reasonable to expect staff to do so. What many have found though is that their companies have been accommodating in terms of allowing people to work from home, only going into the office for specific reasons or to work on a hybrid basis.
What Does My Employer have to Do to Keep Me Safe?
While Covid restrictions in England have been removed, there is still a legal duty to manage the risks of employees and those affected by their businesses. The government has produced Working Safely Guidance which recommends that employers carry out health-and-safety risk assessments, and take reasonable steps to minimise any risks identified.
Businesses, while not obligated to, may choose to operate the following measures:
- Minimise visitors to the business
- Keep operating within social distancing guidelines
- Additional facilities for hand washing
- Regular cleaning and deep cleaning
- One way systems where required
- Back to back or side by side working
- Staggering start and finish times
- Rotating staff so that not everyone is in on the same day
- Offering opportunities to work from home on certain days
While it is up to the business leaders to decide, the desire to reduce the spread of transmission should be a priority. Having staff out isolating, or being unwell with Covid, is the last thing any business wants.
Welcoming Staff Back to the Office
There is bound to be some uncertainty from employees that are returning to the office so making it a safe environment should be a top priority. In our opinion, you should also be providing great coffee. It’s the least you can do right?