Workers feel unsafe returning to the workplace after COVID-19

COVID-19Insurance provider Protectivity has asked office workers around the UK how they’re feeling about going back to work as COVID-19 lockdown restrictions ease, what changes they have made during the lockdown period, their thoughts about attending workplace events over the next few months and how they’re feeling about their pets post-lockdown.

The coronavirus pandemic has changed the way we work and socialise, from companies operating 100 percent remotely and Zoom being utilised a number of events, from work meetings to pub quizzes. As restrictions ease, there’s no hiding from the fact that we will have to return to some form of normality, and adapt to working and living in the ‘new normal’ of life post-pandemic. But just how do we feel about heading away from the safe haven of our homes and back into the office?


How do people feel about returning to work after lockdown?

Although we may have previously packed into crowded lifts to skip climbing the stairs without a second thought, there are now plenty of communal spaces and surfaces in offices that we will probably look at in an entirely new light. When asked if they feel safe returning to the workplace despite the risk of COVID-19, just under 1 in 3 people (31 percent) agreed, however there are clearly some industries where people feel safer than others.

Although there have been several reports of localised COVID-19 outbreaks stemming from factories, more than 2 in 5 (41 percent) of those surveyed who work in manufacturing said that they felt safe returning to work. The arts and culture sector follows closely behind with 39 percent of workers feeling safe to return to the workplace, with the engineering and building sector at 37 percent. More surprisingly, only a quarter (25 percent) of those working in sales, marketing and media and just over 2 in 10 (22 percent) of those working in the legal profession agreed with the statement, despite working in industries where social distancing measures are likely to be more easy to follow.

• 41 percent of those working in manufacturing and utilities feel safe returning to work, compared to just 22 percent of those in the legal profession
• 43 percent of those surveyed enjoyed working from home, with more than a third (34 percent) saying they would consider changing to a part remote role in the future
• The last few months have given us plenty of time to reflect on careers, with more than 1 in 5 (23 percent) seeking a new career path post-lockdown
• Greater London has the highest level of pet purchase regret, with 10 percent of people regretting buying a pet during lockdown


How has COVID-19 changed your life?

Throughout COVID-19, the debate of whether people prefer remote or office working is one that has been ongoing, but 43 percent of those surveyed said that they have enjoyed working from home during the pandemic, with more than a third (34 percent) saying that they may consider changing their contract to a part remote working role in the future.

[perfectpullquote align=”right” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]“The past few months have had a significant impact on all areas of our lives”[/perfectpullquote]

However, with more than 1 in 4 UK workers on the furlough scheme and unable to work for at least part of the pandemic, the last few months have also provided many with time to reflect on their career choices. More than 1 in 5 (23 percent) of those surveyed said that they would like to take on a new career path as a result of the pandemic, which may not be surprising as more than a third (35 percent) are worried about the security of their current role post COVID-19.

Many of us have also had a little more free time, whether from being furloughed from work or as a result of normal social activities being restricted, which has led just under a third (32 percent) of people to start up a new hobby over the last few months and more than 1 in 10 (13 percent) to start up, or plan to start up, a small business.


Life at the office

Heading back to the office over the next few months is something many people are looking forward to, but are there some parts of office life that we haven’t really missed at all? Although just over 1 in 5 (22 percent) people are looking forward to resuming face-to-face meetings with colleagues, office chatter isn’t something that has been missed quite as much, with almost a quarter (24 percent) admitting to getting distracted by colleagues talking. Loud phone calls (16 percent), an untidy workplace (15 percent) and loud eating and chewing (10 percent) are also among other workplace pet peeves that many have avoided while working from home.

While much of our work takes place in the office, larger work events such as training conferences and trade shows are common in many industries. Despite the Government allowing conferences to resume in October, only 18 percent of workers said that they would attend these events, with HR professionals the least keen to attend at just 11 percent.


Pandemic pets

Lockdown has also led to many people reviving their dreams of having a pet, with record numbers purchasing puppies over this period, in order to have a companion for their daily walks. Of those surveyed, 11 percent have purchased a pet during lockdown, with this number rising to nearly a quarter (23 percent) in the West Midlands. Greater London is revealed as the region with the second highest number of pet purchases over the last few months with 17 percent, followed by Northern Ireland (14 percent) and Yorkshire and the Humber (12 percent).

But with 16 percent of people worried about leaving their pets when they head back to their office, are there some people regretting their pet purchases? Although the West Midlands was the region with the highest number of pet purchases, only 7 percent admitted to regretting their purchase. However, this figure is much higher in Greater London which at 10 percent, has the highest level of pet purchase regret.

Sean Walsh, Marketing Manager from Protectivity Insurance comments: “The past few months have had a significant impact on all areas of our lives, however the way in which we approach our work is one area that has undoubtedly changed more than the rest.

Although there is some concern around returning to the workplace and many people have quickly adapted to working remotely, there is still a clear demand for office-based working with more than 1 in 5 people looking forward to returning to face-to-face meetings.

Additionally, with the spike in people buying pets to act as companions during lockdown while they were spending more time at home, it’s very comforting to see that most people are happy with their pandemic pet purchases. With only 6 percent of those surveyed regretting buying pets over the last few months, it looks like people may have given a little more consideration to owning a pet than we may have first thought.”

For full report click here.

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