Two-fifths of employees not consulted over returning to workplace, poll finds

Experts warn employers risk losing skills and experience if they leave staff out of the conversation

Two-fifths of employees have not been consulted about returning to the workplace, according to a poll of UK workers.

The survey by CIPHR, which asked over 1,000 UK workers about their attitudes towards the return to their ‘usual’ (pre-pandemic) workplace, found that 39 per cent of workers said they had not been consulted about their return to the workplace.

And two fifths (40 per cent) of respondents reported their employer had not asked for their views about how many days they would like to be in the office.

Despite this, the study found more than two-thirds of employees will keep wearing masks at work.

Only 10 per cent of those surveyed said they no longer intend to wear a mask under any circumstances, while nearly half (​​49 per cent) of employees said their firms had put in place the use of facemasks in communal areas at their workplace.

If Covid advice changes on 1 August, firms will be able to ask employees who have been able to work from home since lockdown to return to their workplace, as long as they have taken steps to ensure it is Covid secure and social distancing measures are in place.

Generally, the survey respondents were positive about returning to the workplace as 24 per cent said they felt “happy” to return; 22 per cent said they were looking forward to it; and another 22 per cent said they felt “ok” about going back.

Less than a quarter (23 per cent) of people who worked at home during the pandemic were anxious or “dreading” going back to the workplace.

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Claire Williams, director of people and services at CIPHR, urged all employers to consult staff about changes and check in with them – particularly about the return to ‘normal working’.

She cited a separate survey from CIPHR of 1,000 workers, which found that 72 per cent would like to split their time between the workplace and working from home. She warned that “employers need to be aware that they risk losing the skills and experience of some great people if they’re inflexible in their approach to remote working going forward”.

Williams advised that firms need to be considerate of employees’ rights around submitting formal flexible working requests. She also suggested that organisations gain feedback from employees about measures they would like to see implemented for their specific situation, as well as using HR solutions.

“Above all, it’s important that people feel listened to, and that employers act on their feedback, wherever possible,” Williams added, warning that “employees’ loyalty can be easily lost by a failure to communicate, especially following a period where employers have had to call on a huge amount of goodwill from their workforce”.

The research also looked at what a transition back to a physical workplace looks like from an employee perspective.

When asked what practices have been put in place by employers to manage returning to the workplace, almost three in five (59 per cent) said there will hand sanitisers throughout the building; nearly half (48 per cent) said there will be enhanced cleaning; and 37 per cent will put one-way systems or walkways in place.

According to respondents, only one fifth (20 per cent) said their employees would require evidence of a clear Covid test and around one in ten (12 per cent) said they will be asked for evidence of vaccinations.

However, over three quarters (77 per cent) of employees polled said they had received a vaccine with over half (53 per cent) saying they were double jabbed and nearly a quarter (24 per cent) noting that they had received one dose.