How Might Recent COVID Variant Concerns Affect Your Return to the Office?

by Josh Biggs in Business on 8th July 2021

As COVID-19 lockdown restrictions in the UK have been rolled back over the last few months, the proportion of the national workforce returning to the office has significantly grown. By late June, 50% of working adults had returned to the office, Sky News reports. In mid-February, the figure was just 34%.

However, there remain a fair few holdouts – and a number of employees currently working from home have expressed concerns about the prospect of switching back to office life in the near future. This is an understandable stance given the Delta variant, a strain of COVID-19 that has spread rapidly in only weeks.

Are you worried like these employees? 

In early July, Public Health England (PHE) published data revealing that cases of the Delta variant had increased almost four-fold in under a month. This includes growth of 46% in the last week of June alone. Overall, more than 160,000 confirmed and probable Delta cases have been identified in the UK. 

In this context, it’s unsurprising that a number of workers currently based at home have expressed reticence about the idea of soon swapping it for the traditional office. Imperial College London executive assistant Ingrid Temmerman, 51, told BBC News that she was “anxious” due to new COVID variants. 

Similarly, Steven Morris – a campaign advisor for the charity Sense – admitted to the news organization that he doesn’t “feel safe commuting until everyone is vaccinated”, adding despairingly that it is “really difficult to socially distance” in the office.

Why the foreseeable future still bodes well for remote workers 

Now, here’s the bad news: the UK Government is expected to abandon its work-from-guidance on 19 July, when – at the time of writing – all of England’s remaining lockdown restrictions are on course to be axed.

However, one source close to Government discussions revealed to i: “There has not been any repeat of the approach we saw last year, when ministers were pushing hard for people to go back to the office.” The focus, the source added, has shifted to “how hybrid working can work.”

In other words, you could opt to work in the office for only part of the week and stay at home for the rest. This arrangement could save you money on commuting and even, if you are a business owner, renting office space – as you could choose flexible workspace for desks numbering from one to a thousand

Right now, the official advice is for everyone to work from home where possible – and business minister Paul Scully has explained: “Whenever the work-from-home message ends, it will be down to what’s best for the business and the worker.”

What’s best in your case could, perhaps surprisingly, end up being the office – with salesman Adam Jones, 26, having told the BBC: “There is just no question I work better coming in [to the office], getting a coffee, having a little chat.” Furthermore, “employers have an obligation to ensure that there is a safe working environment,” Shah Qureshi of the law firm Irwin Mitchell has emphasized.

Categories: Business