Third of workers want a vaccine or antibody test before returning to work, poll finds

27 Jul 2020 By Francis Churchill

Employees also cite temperature checks and testing in offices as measures that would help alleviate their anxiety about going back to a physical workplace

More than one in three workers want a Covid-19 vaccine or antibody test to be ready before they return to the workplace, a survey has found.

The poll of 2,000 workers, conducted by Canada Life, found that of those respondents working from home since the start of lockdown, 35 per cent said they would like a vaccine or antibody test to be available before coming back to the physical workplace.

Nearly one in five (18 per cent) said they wanted regular temperature checks, 21 per cent wanted coronavirus testing in the office, and 22 per cent wanted office spaces to be rearranged to better facilitate social distancing.

The results followed the announcement earlier this month that the government would relax its guidance advising people to work from home where possible. From 1 August, it will be the responsibility of the employer to decide whether it is safe for their workforce to return to the workplace, with prime minister Boris Johnson saying it was “right we give employers discretion” to make the decision.

Johnson had also said it was “very important” for people to start going back to work if they were able, in order to kick start the economy – a view contradicted by his health adviser, Patrick Vallance, who told a select committee that working from home ‘‘remains a perfectly good option” for many companies and he saw “absolutely no reason” to change this.

The Canada Life poll found that many (41 per cent) felt positive about returning to the office. Less than a third of respondents (28 per cent) were concerned about the return to the workplace, though this increased to 36 per cent among women.

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Men were more concerned than women, however, about potentially contracting coronavirus (37 per cent and 23 per cent respectively). But women were more worried about the risk of commuting compared to men (20 per cent and 24 per cent respectively), were more concerned that colleagues would not be taking the same safety precautions as themselves (26 per cent of women versus 16 per cent of men), and were more anxious about having to physically interact with people again (23 per cent of women, compared to 12 per cent of men).

The poll also found 31 per cent wanted the option to work from home in future as and when suited them, while just under a quarter (23 per cent) wanted the choice of whether to return to the office at all.

Paul Avis, strategic proposition director at Canada Life, said it was not surprising that workers were anxious about returning to the workplace. “After such a long period of time working from home, many of us have developed new ways of working and fallen into new routines,” he said.

“While lots of workers are looking forward to getting back to normal, many feel like the new normal will never be the same as it once was. With the pandemic changing the way we’ve lived our lives over the past four months, I’m not surprised that some are understandably hoping for a vaccine or antibody testing before they get back into the workplace.”

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