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Annoying colleagues deter Brits from returning to offices

When returning to the office, UK workers are more worried about sharing a space with annoying colleagues than they are about catching Covid.

In a new survey by manufacturing company Airdri, four in ten (40%) of those currently working from home said they dreaded being trapped with annoying colleagues the most, compared to just over a quarter (26%) whose top worry was Covid.

Even worries over the office’s temperature - either too hot or too cold - beat Covid worries, as over a third (35%) said it was their main concern.

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Steve Whittall, group director of R&D and operations at Airdri, told HR magazine that such a long period of home-working has made people less accepting of colleagues’ idiosyncrasies.

He said: “This reaction to returning to the office is totally understandable in my opinion.

“Having worked at home (and only alongside loved ones) for so long, many office workers’ tolerance for others has been lowered.”

A third (33%) of employees currently working from home have not been back to the office since March 2020. 

Brian Kropp, chief of HR research at research and consulting firm Gartner, told HR magazine that workers will have to readapt themselves to the office environment.

He added: "We also have to remember that employees are going back to offices that look and feel very different to the ones they left back in 2020.

"The hybrid work structure means that working patterns and modes of interaction are more varied. Meanwhile, there are new areas of conflict with people having different ideologies around COVID health and safety for example."

Workers were not just concerned about their colleagues' personalities. Almost a quarter (23%) most dreaded having to put up with annoying habits, like humming, singing, or finger-clicking. 

A further fifth (20%) said they couldn’t face their coworkers’ poor hygiene.

Whittall said: “I can see how those things could get annoying.

“Working alone means a lot of people have forgotten the unwritten rules of sharing an office and slipped into bad habits that could get people’s backs up.”

He added, however, that these fears may not last long.

“I wouldn’t think it would take too long for people to readjust and start to find the positives in working from the office again.

"Collaborative working, social interaction and the mental health benefits of getting up, dressed for work and out of the house - to name just a few.”

Kropp added: "“Leaders should not underestimate the disruption caused by a return to regular office working.

"To tackle the problems and support this transition, organisations should be looking to re-onboard employees as though they are joining a brand-new company, creating new philosophies around office etiquette and collaboration.”