• Office returns ‘feared’ by UK workers

    960 640 Stuart O'Brien

    More than half of British workers would be happy to never return to the office – due to fears of germs, a lack of social distancing and being in a room with lots of other people.

    A study of 1,000 employees who are currently working from home found two thirds would also feel uncomfortable about going back into their workplace full time. Nearly six in 10 (56 per cent) feel anxious at the thought of being back in the office and 46 per cent are apprehensive, while 24 per cent are even feeling stressed. Other worries include lack of personal space (39 per cent), colleagues not using hand sanitiser or soap (27 per cent) and not enough communal cleaning (27 per cent).

    Having to commute topped the list of anxieties (51 per cent), followed by less flexible working (43 per cent) and social distancing not being taken seriously (42 per cent). Of those polled, 28 per cent will travel to work on public transport, with 77 per cent of them being concerned about the cleanliness of the tube, bus or train.

    Zac Hemming, founding director for Ice Cleaning, which commissioned the study, said: “There is clearly some fear around going back to the office after settling into working from home during this past year. Hygiene is going to be at the front of people’s minds more than ever and seemingly normal things from ‘previous’ life such as making tea rounds, sharing desks and using communal toilets might feel daunting. It’s important both employees and employers feel supported in making the journey back to the office as smooth as possible. Cleaning is going to become much more of a priority for workplaces.”

    The study also found that to combat their anxieties, new habits workers vow to take on include carrying hand sanitiser (47 per cent), wearing a mask (45 per cent) and cleaning their own desk daily (41 per cent). They would also like their employer to implement sanitising pumps around the building (56 per cent). Half of those polled also want social distancing between desks (50 per cent), with four out of 10 also wanting a monthly decontamination deep clean as part of their office cleaning regime. It also emerged seven in 10 would only feel comfortable returning to work if strict cleanliness rules were in place, with a quarter (25 per cent) wanting their offices professionally cleaned daily to feel safe. And upon reflection, 45 per cent do not think their office was clean enough prior to the pandemic. But four in five generally feel safer and cleaner when working from home.

    In an ideal world, employees would only be based in the office on two days out of the five-day working week, and 70 per cent only want themselves and their colleagues to return to work once they have been vaccinated.

    The research, carried out via OnePoll, also found workers think it will take four weeks of being back in the office for it to feel ‘normal’ again. Until that point, workers think being in the workplace instead of their own home will seem strange (45 per cent), uncomfortable (28 per cent) and surreal (23 per cent). More than three in five also admitted they will likely struggle to get used to a new routine when they return to their place of work.

    Hemming added: “After a year of working from home and adjusting to a new routine, it’s normal that people will have worries about returning to work. What’s important is giving employees the reassurance and peace of mind that this is being taken seriously, easing any concerns that people might have whilst also creating a positive, clean and safe workplace.”


    1. Having to commute there and back
      2. Less flexible working
      3. Social distancing not being taken seriously
      4. Having to get up extra early
      5. Being in a room with lots of people
      6. Getting home late
      7. Having to wear a mask
      8. Lack of personal space
      9. Having to use the office toilets
      10. Touching door handles that other people have touched
      11. Lack of fresh air e.g. windows not being open
      12. Spending money e.g. on the commute or on lunch/coffee
      13. Having to sit in traffic
      14. Having to dress presentably
      15. Face to face meetings
      16. Others not using hand sanitizer/soap
      17. Lack of communal cleaning e.g. desks not being cleaned regularly
      18. Getting on public transport
      19. Distractions from colleagues or other noise
      20. Having to share the office kitchen e.g. prepping lunch with lots of people around
      21. Unable to fit in household chores around working
      22. Unable to be home for deliveries/ post
      23. Having to start on time e.g. my set hours
      24. Unable to get as much work done as I would do at home
      25. Lack of free time to go for a walk
      26. Having to make small talk
      27. Having to sit in one place all day instead of between my sofa, my desk, my kitchen etc
      28. Being unable to listen to music or watch TV while working
      29. Having to prepare lunch e.g. take food in with me
      30. Lack of cleaning supplies e.g. anti-bac wipes
      31. Seeing less of my family/ housemates
      32. Unable to fit in exercise
      33. Having to wear shoes all day e.g. not slippers
      34. Having to use the communal printer
      35. Being uncomfortable on my office chair
      36. Lack of hand sanitizer
      37. Having to share cutlery/ mugs/ utensils
      38. Having to eat at set times
      39. Having to share stationery
      40. Having to drink the provided tea and coffee, rather than use my coffee machine at home


    1. Hand sanitiser pumps around the building
      2. A daily cleaning regime including regular cleaning of desks and communal areas
      3. Social distancing between desks
      4. Providing anti-bacterial wipes
      5. Windows open or on-latch to allow fresh air
      6. Monthly decontamination deep clean
      7. Staff to wear masks
      8. Staggered start and finish times
      9. Masks provided
      10. Limited amount of people in lifts

    Stuart O'Brien

    All stories by: Stuart O'Brien