Rising staff fears over the safety of a return to the office

As hopes increase that a return to the office maybe on the horizon, a new study has found over 70% of UK workers do not feel safe in their employee’s buildings.

Technology firm Honeywell has released the results of a global study on workers’ perceptions and feelings on the health and safety of their workplace.

Conducted by Wakefield Research, the study surveyed 2000 workers that typically work in buildings with 500 or more employees.

In the UK the findings showed that 71% of the UK workforce do not feel completely safe working in their employer’s buildings. This number is even higher for remote workers (78%), who are especially sceptical about the safety of work sites.

Of real concern was the view of 23% of remote workers globally who would look for a new job rather than return to a site that did not implement necessary safety measures. Furthermore, only 35% of workers in the UK have received safety training from building management, compared to 41% globally.

“Workers are keenly attuned to the steps employers are taking to make their workspaces safer and healthier, especially when it comes to air quality and adherence to safety guidelines, which wasn’t previously a concern for some people,” said Vimal Kapur, president and chief executive officer of Honeywell Building Technologies. “Air quality, for example, is not something that will be dismissed once we’re on the other side of this pandemic. It will be essential to the occupant experience, and good air quality will help make workers feel more comfortable as they return back to their offices.”

The surveyed workers in the UK were equally concerned about COVID-19 transmission through the air (49%) and through contact with a surface (51%). Their level of concern for surface transfer is significantly higher than that of workers globally (44%). In terms of what poses a bigger threat to their safety, 62% point to co-workers not following safety guidelines and 38% note outdated ventilation systems.

Over half (62%) of surveyed UK workers believe that building management is more likely to make short-term changes in response to COVID-19 rather than make long-term investments in building systems needed to keep them safe. Surveyed workers are most worried that building management will not consistently enforce health and safety guidelines (43%), followed by worry that they won’t consistently invest in new technology to make working in-person safer (28%).

“Many facilities have made changes to their procedures but have not invested in the building itself – and their occupants have noticed,” Mr Kapur said. “Workers are going to demand more from buildings in the future, and we’re even seeing with these survey results that creating a healthier and safer environment will be a differentiator for staff retention and recruiting, and it may also impact long-term real estate value.”

To return to work and feel safer, UK surveyed workers view health safety protocols such as social distancing or mandatory masks as most critical (51%), yet only 55% of those working on-site have seen such updates happen. Other top health and safety measures that surveyed workers want include protocols such as temperature checks (45%), enhanced cleaning procedures (41%), touchless door entries (33%), updated air quality systems (28%) and technology for contact tracing (23%).

In the UK the findings showed that 71% of the UK workforce do not feel completely safe working in their employer’s buildings. This number is even higher for remote workers (78%), who are especially sceptical about the safety of work sites.

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