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Mixed messages for businesses on returning to work safely

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SGP glass divider screens protecting employees at KC Communications

Business leaders are divided when it comes to the guidelines sent out by the government on returning to work safely. Despite confusion over government guidelines, the majority of businesses feel confident in reopening their business to employees.

As more restrictions are lifted and non-essential businesses are allowed to reopen it is likely that other businesses with commercial premises, not specifically under any form of restrictions will begin taking this as a signal that they are able to begin bringing their staff back from working from home or off furlough.

In a recent survey conducted by Huddersfield based glass manufacturer, Specialist Glass Products (SGP), it revealed that four in ten (42%) businesses felt government guidelines have not been communicated effectively, whereas (40%) felt that guidelines had been communicated effectively.

Regardless of the mixed views, over three quarters (77%) of employers felt that they had adequate PPE and social distancing measures in place to provide a COVID-19 secure work environment and, as a result, 72% felt that they have the measures in place to allow all staff work on work premises, and with four in five (80%) of employees saying that they were confident in returning to the workplace if they were asked to do so it’s likely we’ll see many more businesses begin to return to some form of normal operation.


Hand sanitisers and 2-meter social distancing rules are proving to be the most common measures implemented to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Businesses are also implementing additional washing facilities, face masks, screen dividers and alternate shifts.

Gary Slade, CEO of Teleperformance UK and South Africa, reported that the company has ordered more than 230,000 masks for its UK employees to be safe at work. Teleperformance has also introduced additional measures to support its people, including appointing ‘Social Distancing Champions’ who remind staff of the government advice at all times and more recently ‘Hygiene Heroes’, made up of front-line staff in all offices, ensuring staff deliver in terms of cleaning.

However, not all business leaders were confident in reopening work premises to staff and the public. Nearly two in six (17%) felt they would be unable to have all their staff back in the workplace while following current government advice. A further one in ten (10%) felt unsure when asked if they could allow all staff to return to work. Of those who felt unable to, 24% of those said that they expect redundancies, which is in contrast to just 10% feeling concerned about their job security.

For those returning to their place of work, nearly four in five employees said that they were confident that the employer has the necessary health and safety measures in place to ensure a safe return to work.

Tom Jenane, nutrition and fitness expert at the Natures Healthbox, an online retailer of natural health, beauty and home goods, reported that his employer “has been very thorough at walking through how we can be safe in the office, but also highlighting that I don’t have to come back to the office if I don’t feel comfortable doing so.”

Despite the majority responding positively to getting back to the workplace, some employees expressed concerns that they were being asked to return to work, even though they felt unsafe, citing lack of communication around new safety measures or that businesses were not providing PPE.

Regardless of the mixed messages, employers have a duty of care and employees have the right to feel safe at work. For those who feel unsure about how they can provide a safe work environment for staff, Richard YEO, director at ACI, an office design and fit out company advised businesses should be looking at ways to create space, whether that’s by moving desks to only allowing back certain staff that needed to be in the office. If only a set amount of staff is allowed back at once, YEO predicted that there will be an upswing in offices that have a hot desk layout, where anyone can use any desk at any time when they’re in the office. However, he advised that this requires a good level of cleanliness and responsibility.

With its expertise in glass manufacturing, survey organisers, SGP recently launched glass screen dividers, also known as ‘sneeze screens’ to help prevent the spread of viruses and any other contagious illnesses in response to COVID-19.

Andrew Taylor, managing director at SGP said, “The protective glass screens we manufacture are an ideal solution to enable employees to social distance in the office and other workplace environments. Thinking about and planning for the future, in particular when it comes to health and safety, should be on everyone’s agenda.”

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