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With the UK’s COVID-19 vaccination programme continuing to go from strength to strength, attention is continuing to turn to the unlocking of society and the reopening of the economy.  In light of this, as the UK Government’s roadmap to ease lockdown restrictions rolls out, there is reason to be optimistic as we hope for a return to normality in the months and year ahead. However, don’t rush! Safely does it. The return to the office after COVID requires patience and understanding towards everyone involved in the comeback. 

Going back to the office after COVID shouldn’t be a massive detriment to anyone’s health or happiness. So let’s take a look at the all-important factors you should be considering when mapping out your coronavirus back to work plan. 

Coronavirus return to work plans: Replicating the return to hospitality

Since 12th April, we have seen many across the UK relish hospitality and non-essential retail returning. Bars and restaurants throughout the country have been packed with customers, albeit with punters sitting outside for now. This uptick in business activity is promising and will help deliver a shot in the arm to a sector that has suffered disproportionately due to COVID-19 and ensuing lockdown restrictions. Going back to work after COVID should be a streamlined strive for success, no matter the industry.

However, a large-scale return to the office still appears to be several months away. Despite over 35.5 million people in the UK having now been vaccinated, we are still yet to see many return to the office as they have done so with hospitality. With the UK Government’s review on social distancing expected to complete around June, DeVono anticipates a significant return to the office over the summer.

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Addressing safety concerns

Nothing should stand in the way of safety being prioritized when getting back to work after COVID. A recent report by Velocity Smart Technology found that over 40 per cent of individuals surveyed in the UK are concerned about catching COVID-19 from their colleagues, while 37 per cent are fearful of contracting COVID-19 from office equipment. In light of this, business leaders need to address safety concerns if they desire a large-scale return to the office.

Before a full-scale return to the office can occur, businesses should take into consideration a number of factors to ensure that their office space is COVID-19 secure. How staff travel to the office, how a building is accessed, and how teams work together are just some of the many considerations that business leaders must contemplate and plan for. Considering these dynamics, organisations should consult with their commercial real estate advisors to set in motion the actions that will ensure their workplace is safe for employees to return in the coming months.

DeVono is confident that, once such safety concerns are addressed, many businesses will be able to welcome an increased number of employees back into the office, particularly in light of the UK’s ongoing vaccination rollout. Indeed, with many suffering from ‘Zoom fatigue,’ and the constant blurring between home and work life, individuals will once again recognise the mental health benefits of being in the office and collaborating with colleagues in person.

To help businesses ensure they can return to a ‘COVID-19 Secure’ workplace, DeVono has developed a Return-to-the-Office risk assessment.

The wider importance of the office worker

Despite the role of the office arguably changing forever due to the pandemic, a return of office workers to city centres will be undoubtedly positive for the broader UK economy. Many businesses, particularly those in city centres, rely on a steady stream of nearby office workers to use their services, whether they are coffee shops, pubs, barbers, or otherwise. The broader impact office workers have on city-centre economies has been ignored for too long in the ongoing debate over working from home. There’s no doubting how significant the return to the office after COVID is for the wider economy, so be compassionate and considerate of the local businesses that rely on your office team.

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The road to normality

For many organisations, there is an ongoing internal, and in some cases, public debate about the future of the workspace. How businesses use their office space post-COVID is still very much open to discussion as we slowly emerge from lockdown restrictions and return to work after COVID-19.

However, if employers can address employee safety concerns, organisations may find that the current slow trickle of workers returning to the office after COVID turns quickly into something more substantial. Only after addressing such concerns will both businesses and employees be able to, once again, reap the many benefits of in-person collaboration. Much like the Prime Minister’s words regarding the easing of lockdown restrictions, if we are to cautiously but irreversibly return to the office, workers’ safety concerns must be addressed now.

Going back to work after COVID? It’s critical that you consider all of the above if you want to fit back into office life seamlessly and safely. Safely does it! Time is on your side.

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