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Uncertainty breeds confusion as nation fears return to work

A 2000-person survey conducted by Cartridge Save, set out to understand how people felt about returning to work when the risk to health is still high. Is it too soon to return to work? 

The government may have unveiled its plan for easing lockdown, but one startling fact remains – the pandemic is far from over.

While schools and non-essential shops plan to reopen; social gatherings increase and sporting events resume, the UK still has one of the worst death rates in the world. Confirmed cases continue to rise, and with the track-and-trace system still in its early stages of rollout, there’s one question people keep asking – is it too soon to return to work?

Are you worried about returning to work during the pandemic?

A 2000-person survey set out to understand how people felt about returning to work when the risk to health is still high. Ian Cowley, Managing Director of Cartridge Save said “The government may be easing lockdown rules, but we’re still fully committed to protecting the health and wellbeing of our team. And for us, this means continuing to work from home.”

But for those who can’t work from home and need to return to work, how do they really feel?

  • 30% of people surveyed said they were worried about going back, claiming that they didn’t feel safe about returning to work

  • 10% of people thought that it was too soon, but felt they had no other option as they needed money

  • 13% thought it was the right time to return to work

  • Those aged between 45-54 were the most worried about returning to work

Uncertainty breeds confusion 

Lack of government clarity has certainly had a huge effect on people during this time too:

  • 3% thought the threat was gone

  • 44% didn’t know how they felt about returning to work

There has been conflicting advice throughout the pandemic, leaving many people uncertain about how to behave or convinced about the seriousness of the situation.

This is further supported by research led by clinical psychologists at the University of Oxford. The research indicated that a number of UK adults do not agree with the scientific and governmental consensus on the Covid-19 pandemic.

The results issued in the journal, Psychological Medicine, also stated that 59% of adults in England believe to some extent that the Government is misleading the public about the cause of the virus, 21% believe the virus is a hoax, and 62% agree that the virus is man-made to some extent.

Are UK businesses ready to return to work?

Like many businesses forced to adapt during this time, Cartridge Save has been able to transform their eCommerce operation successfully. They can provide their team with the reassurance that they can still work from home, while maintaining social distancing protocols for their team working in warehouse and logistics.

“We appreciate that we are in a fortunate position.” Ian Cowley continues, “However, some businesses haven’t been able to operate; therefore the desire to open and get their teams back together must be overwhelming.”

Speaking to other business leaders and professionals, we asked how they felt about returning to work…

In a time of uncertainty, you must lead with compassion 

Beth Williams-Lally, HR Manager from Algeos says: “As the leader of this country, Johnson has received lots of backlash in recent months, mainly because the trust has gone for many people. His lack of clarity, inaction and transparency continues to impact his credibility on a global scale, as the psychological well-being of millions has been directly impacted.

“Some business leaders will also be experiencing this and it is important to remember; how employees are treated during this time will have a significant impact on how they feel towards their employer in the long run.

“It’s not an easy task running a company in this era, ensuring the safety of your employees and trying to ensure the survival of your business.  I’m hearing a variety of experiences across my HR community and it’s clear compassion, flexibility, communication, clarity and transparency are key.”

We worried about doing the right thing, but communication is key to keeping employees safe

“A lot of our staff still live with their parents, so their home workspaces might not be the best environment for them to work from, in particular when it comes to their mental health and this is one of the reasons we have responded to their desires to get back in the office.” says Katrina Cliffe from KC Communications.

“In terms of safety measures, we have a thorough risk assessment, which has been accepted and signed by all staff. We have put glass screens around all workstations, everyone has personal hand sanitiser to keep on them at all times, and we have pump-action bottles on all desks. Our factory will now run on two shifts, and all workstations are washed down at various intervals throughout the day.

“My biggest concern is whether or not I am doing the right thing by allowing the team back, but I’ve taken into account multiple considerations before doing so. However, I’m really excited to be able to get back in and bounce around ideas without the lag of video conferencing and using whiteboards and sticky notes again!”

We’ve adapted to change, but we worry about creating a unified team as we move forward

CEO and Founder of Monty Digital, Alfie Green, says “Working in social media we’ve been busier than ever — but with new challenges. Live events have become live streams, clients have had to pivot their business models swiftly, and it’s been integral that their social tone of voice and content is relevant and sensitive.

“I didn’t expect to be sharing Covid-19 workshops with teams or outlining the pros and cons of joining the conversations online as a brand.

“For us, it’s been a challenge as a team – constantly working remotely can be draining and it’s been key to check in on our team’s mental and physical health, and ensure our homes don’t also become a 24-7 office.

“Whilst it’s probably going to be quite a while until it’s business as usual for everyone, it’ll be widely positive to get back to the day-to-day of office life, and shooting content where you can actually place a camera close to someone will be a welcome return.

“But I think we’re all a tad worried about how we’ll get to work, especially for those who rely on public transport. It also seems returning to work could be more difficult for those needing childcare, or for those who are dependent on schools returning. It’s all still up in the air and that is a worry when you want your whole team to feel unified and looked after.”

Moving forward in an uncertain world

The country cannot remain in lockdown indefinitely; therefore we must find a way to move towards a different kind of future, and adapt how we live, interact and work.

But in order for us to do so with confidence, it’s imperative that our leaders – both in government and in business – provide clear guidance on what is expected and communicate effectively to keep us all safe.

“We don’t know when we’ll get back into the office.” says Ian Cowley from Cartridge Save, “But we will only return when we feel it is absolutely safe to do so. Protecting our team has been our number one priority throughout lockdown and when we do eventually return, our commitment to protecting our colleagues will remain the same.”

Survey conducted by Cartridge Save

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