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Millions of UK workers never want to return to the office

More than 2.5 million UK employees say they will never feel comfortable going back into the office, according to new research.

This equals 8% of the working population, with a further 26% wanting to ban speaking about furlough if they have to return to the workplace and 26% not wanting to talk to colleagues about a COVID-19 vaccination. 

Printing company Instantprint’s new research of 1,000 employees in March 2021, found workers were apprehensive about returning to the office once lockdown restrictions were lifted.

More than a third of UK employees (36%) currently working from home would also like to continue doing so full-time forever.

Speaking to HR magazine, Sophie Forrest, founder and managing director of HR support company ForrestHR, said it’s not surprising people feel anxious about returning to work after so long working from home.

She said: “Many people find change challenging and returning to work after so long locked down at home is a really big change.

“Recognising this is the first step HR leaders and businesses can take to help their staff transition successfully back to the workplace.”

By acknowledging the scale of the change teams are facing, Forrest said HR teams can employ best-practice change management strategies to support them through it.

“The first thing to do is to create a structured plan for managing the transition, which will include making sure you have the right policies and procedures in place to ensure safe working and any training required to help staff adjust to new ways of working.

“Effective two-way communication will be essential within this, explaining to staff the steps you are taking to keep them safe and listening to and addressing their concerns,” she said.

The report also found 19% of respondents are nervous about how intense being back at work may feel.

Forrest said HR must ensure additional health and wellbeing measures are put in place, such as counselling or stress management training, to ease people back.

She added: “You may think of this as additional expense, but it’s much cheaper to support valued staff effectively to help them return successfully to the workplace than to recruit and train new staff.

“Providing holistic support that recognises the scale of the challenge your people have been through over the last year will show them that you value you them, which will help create a loyal, engaged workforce.”


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