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Two-thirds of East Anglian employees concerned about catching COVID-19 at work as government confirms restrictions will ease

12 May Two-thirds of East Anglian employees concerned about catching COVID-19 at work as government confirms restrictions will ease

Nearly two-thirds of employees in East Anglia (63 per cent) are worried about contracting Coronavirus when they return to their place of work after restrictions ease, a survey has found. The findings follow a UK-wide survey, carried out by King’s Lynn-based JD Cooling Group, the UK’s leading independent supplier of environmental control systems, which revealed that despite the extensive vaccine roll out, many people in the region and the rest of the UK remain cautious about the prospect of a return to the office.

Lack of space and ventilation
Almost half (47 per cent) of all respondents cited the possibility of catching Coronavirus through airborne transmission indoors as their biggest concern, followed by 40 per cent who said poor air quality is a worry for them about returning to their workplace.

Two in five said they are concerned their co-workers might not be vigilant enough with handwashing, while 37 per cent of people admitted to being concerned about others not wearing masks. Lack of space is also an issue, with 35 per cent concerned about meetings in smaller rooms with limited ventilation, and a third (33 per cent) concerned about social distancing not being possible.

Providing reassurance
Despite these worries, there are a number of solutions that would help reassure employees about returning to work, with three in five (62 per cent) saying they would like a ventilation system installed to improve air quality, circulation and flow.

Social distancing measures being in place and enforced would reassure two in five (42 per cent), while a third (33 per cent) would be reassured by regular cleaning of surfaces. Two in five (39 per cent) would be reassured if the majority of the company had been given a coronavirus vaccine – slightly higher than the 32 per cent who would be reassured if they had been given the coronavirus vaccine themselves.

Changes to the workplace would also help to provide reassurance, as three in ten (31 per cent) support changes to allow them to have their own office or workspace, 26 per cent supporting Perspex screens being added to their workspace, and a fifth (18 per cent) feeling reassured if gloves and PPE was provided.

Mike Gould, HVAC Manager at JD Cooling Group said: “This data clearly shows that while there are measures in place, such as face masks and social distancing, people remain concerned when it comes to the next stage of restrictions lifting, and it won’t be enough to simply open doors and windows to encourage better air flow. Even with the vaccine roll out, proper ventilation is coming out as the top way to help employees feel comfortable about returning to the office.

“Good ventilation can rid a workplace of contaminated and stale air. As people are still clearly concerned about catching the virus at work, it’s important that employers do what they can in order to protect, reassure and ultimately keep their workforce safe.”

The study also found a significant minority (42 per cent) said that they would be likely to consider looking for another job if their employer did not put in adequate measures to minimise the spread of Coronavirus before they returned to their normal workplace. This highlights the importance of employers taking steps to protect their workforce.

Beyond this, the pandemic will undoubtedly have far-reaching long-term impacts on workers’ attitudes, as a third (35 per cent) say that they will be more concerned about catching common colds and flu viruses at work than they were before the pandemic, even after the vaccination programme has been fully rolled out.