Research released this week finds leadership teams are spending millions on getting ready for the return to the workplace, but a lack of internal communication and trust is causing a roadblock in the return to work.

Huma, a UK-based digital health and therapeutics company (formerly known as Medopad), has found that less than half (45%) of workplaces were ready to accommodate their people back into the workplace by the end of August.

Despite the UK Government’s push to get people back into the workplace, figures from the research suggest a fifth (19%) of UK-based businesses will not be ready until the first half of 2021.

The survey conducted with a sample of 5,000 UK workers and from a pool of 2,000 UK employers, further found that businesses are spending an average of £58.55 per employee per month to ensure a safe workplace for their employees. New measures include new hygiene protocols, socially distant layouts, and staggered work shifts among their top changes. From those surveyed, this equates to approximately £675 million per month.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, just one in five businesses feel suitably informed on the exact policies and procedures they need to have in place to ensure a safe working environment for their employees.

Most employers believe that it is the responsibility of employees to self-report health concerns citing resource constraints. However, the overwhelming majority (70%) are willing to pay for COVID-19 tests should an employee request one. Importantly, employers fear the biggest disruption to restarting their business operations will be the willingness of more staff to return to the workplace owing to safety concerns.

Rustom Tata is Chairman of city law firm DMH Stallard and head of the employment group at the firm said: “Even though shielding is at an end for the time being, as individuals change their habits (which is what the underlying scientific advice requires) staff will continue to have worries about their health and those around them. Those employees who have been able to work remotely will feel more able to challenge an employer who attempts to force their return on a full-time basis. Having said that, employees will need a proper reason for refusing to attend the workplace if the employer requests their return.”

Employee confidence in workplace measures is low 

From an employee perspective, half of those surveyed (54%) are reluctant to return to work fearing they will unknowingly contract COVID-19 and mistakenly pass it to friends and family at home.

Of the employees who have returned to work, over half (57%) are not confident with the measures in place to ensure their safety and well being. The same applies to people who have not returned to work yet. This is possibly why almost a third (29%) felt their health and safety would be compromised in the workplace.

Employees ranked interactions with commuters (29%), co-workers (24%), and being in meetings (23%) as the top risk factors for catching COVID-19. The workplace ranked as the lowest risk (8%).

The role of communications 

In the midst of ongoing uncertainty and a rise in the need for trust between employers and employees, the research suggests there continues to be a poor level of internal communication. Just a quarter (24%) of employees feel informed about the new safety protocols and procedures at their workplace.

Similarly, only a quarter (24%) of businesses are prioritising communicating these changes to their employees.

Dan Vahdat, founder and CEO of Huma, said: “There seems to be a breakdown of communication between employers and employees and this is leading to some unrest and possibly delaying the economic recovery. Trust building is now more critical than ever.”

If you’re in the throes of planning communication around the return to the workplace, next week we’re holding a free virtual roundtable for anyone who wants to join. Book your space here: https://simply-communicate.com/event/back-to-the-workplace-a-roundtable-discussion-2/

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