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Are UK employees more reluctant to return to the office than our European counterparts?

Chris Biggs, Managing Director of Theta Financial Reporting, gives his advice on how to bring teams back into the office....

With offices still closed, employees continuing to work from home and day after day of virtual meetings, it could look like this form of working is now the new normal. But for many across Europe, people are already returning to the office.  

Two recent surveys suggest a difference of opinion between the UK, US and other European countries. The ManpowerGroup What Workers Want survey of eight countries published this week suggests staff in the US and UK were more negative than about returning to the workplace than their counterparts in Germany, France, Italy, Mexico, Singapore and Spain. 

According to another poll by AlphaWise last month for Morgan Stanley, only 34 per cent of UK office workers said they had gone back to their usual workplace, compared with 83 per cent in France, demonstrating a nervousness to returning to work in the UK. 

With many businesses looking to bring teams back either from furlough or from an extended period of working from home,  nationally representative research from Theta Financial Reporting across 2,000 UK workers found that 35% of Brits say going back to work in a traditional office environment will have a negative impact on their mental health, which in turn will negatively affect their productivity.  


Key stats:    

  • Nearly three-quarters of Londoners – 70% – do not feel comfortable commuting to work via public transport anymore and think it will be one of the most stressful parts of their day  
  • 57% of people in London do not want to go back to the normal way of working in an office environment with normal office hours  
  • Over a third of Londoners – 36% – say their company will return to the office with a smaller team with people handling more varied responsibilities 


Chris Biggs, managing director of Theta Financial Reporting, has given his advice employers looking to bring their staff back safely: 
“Employees are obviously concerned about returning to work but if you are bringing your team back, there are some steps you should take: 

Ask your team

First, get the input of the team. Businesses should look to gauge their employee’s attitudes on how they want to work going forward, their concerns and desires. A collaborative approach will be far more beneficial to the company than forcing a decision made onto people without consultation. 


A new working model? 

Second, you should consider a mixed model moving forward, with some home working and some office-based work. Mixing shift patterns carefully and in a coordinated fashion will help distance staff and make them feel safer. Office spaces may need redesigning, allowing staff to collaborate safely, and office hours may need to change to avoid peak travel hours.  



Third, make sure your safety and safeguarding measures are robust. Ensure you always have hand sanitizer in the office, appropriate social distancing and temperature measurements, but be aware to adhere to data protection and GDPR rules if you plan to gather information such as the temperatures of employees. These steps should help team members feel safer and more confident about returning to the office.” 


Written by Chris Biggs, Managing Director of Theta Financial Reporting.

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