According to findings conducted by Public Health England (PHE), offices have experienced more outbreaks of COVID-19 than any other workplace such as construction sites and warehouses. Thus, highlighting the need for stricter processes by employers in terms of distancing, time schedules and use of PPE.
Data showed that there had been over 500 confirmed COVID-19 outbreaks in office spaces in the second half of 2020 – even after the Prime Minister instructed those who can work from home to do so in November.
The report compared outbreaks in offices to a variety of other workplaces, including supermarkets, construction sites, warehouses, restaurants and cafes. Offices experienced more cases than all of those mentioned combined.
In the first two weeks of the current national lockdown, PHE found there to have been more than 60 suspected outbreaks recorded in offices, despite urges from the UK Government to work from home when possible.
The current government guidance across the UK states that “you may only leave your home for work if you cannot reasonably work from home”.
Only in January this year did the PCS Union call for government intervention. This followed repeated COVID-19 outbreaks at the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency in Swansea where 500 employees contracted the virus since the start of the pandemic last March. A spokesperson for the agency said that the nature of some roles did actually require employees to work from the office, recalling the essential nature of the services that they provide.
Earlier this year, the Heath and Safety Executive revealed that they had received nearly 8500 COVID-19 related complaints in just an 8-day period, which consequently did result in enforcement action for 81 of these reported cases.
For many who deem their work to be essential in the office, remote working is not a viable nor sustainable option.
Barclay’s Chief Executive, Jes Staley, echoed these sentiments and concerns during a World Economic Forum panel discussion, stating that it will “increasingly be a challenge to maintain the culture and collaboration that these large financial institutions seek to have and should have”.
Those experience issues related to their health and safety in office buildings should file a complaint report to the Health and Safety Executive.