Editor: It is troubling to see UK workers once again confined to their homes, as we enter a second national lockdown.
Having worked with the business secretary on the development of the government’s back to work blueprint earlier this year, I can say with the utmost confidence that a safe return to the office that limits the spread of Covid-19 is not only vital for the survival of British businesses, but readily achievable.
In fact, Covid-19-compliant office spaces are one of the safest locations for workers, importantly ensuring that the community, collaboration and critical in-person development opportunities the office alone provides are not lost to this generation of workers.
The UK’s declining productivity rates should serve as an alarming warning. Indeed, UK productivity declined on the fastest rate on record as people worked from home over Q2 this year, with output per worker declining by almost a fifth and output per hour down 2.5% compared with the previous quarter, according to the ONS.
The rising silent impact of home working on mental health should also give serious cause for concern. Supporting recent research by the Mental Health Foundation, a survey by Office Space In Town found that almost a third of people cited loneliness as the main disadvantage of remote working, 25% of workers reported feelings of anxiety and 37% of people reported being unable to unplug from work, raising serious risk of burnout for team members based at home.
The fact that 29% of survey respondents lacked the appropriate equipment required to work from home raises questions not only about how to protect the mental and physical health of a remote workforce, but also how businesses can thrive without the amenities of offices – all of which will be critical in an economic recovery from this virus.
Giles Fuchs, chief executive, Office Space in Town