Are your staff worried about returning to the office?

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Two thirds (63%) of Brits say COVID-19 has changed their behaviour forever, admitting that there are things they will never do again following the pandemic.

Confidence in returning to pre-pandemic routines has declined sharply since last summer, as the second and current national lockdowns have cemented anxieties about air quality and health issues in the long term.

Research conducted amongst 2,000 UK adults in February found that one in five (19%) of those polled went as far to say that they will refuse to return to ‘normal life’ unless robust public health measures are introduced.

The study, completed by So Pure Air – which provides air sterilizers that kill up to 99.7% of bacteria and airborne viruses – highlighted a number of concerns that are likely to have a direct impact on employers’ “return to work” strategies.

Released after data revealed a significant number of COVID-19 outbreaks occurred in offices during the first two weeks of the current lockdown in England, the poll showed that almost half (44%) are reluctant to return to their office.

These concerns can be linked to improved public awareness and understanding of perceived air quality in indoor settings since the start of the pandemic.

For indoor spaces, favoured health and safety measures include open-window policies to aid air flow (42%), permanent social-distancing regulations (38%) and compulsory mask-wearing (37%).

The mandatory installation of air sterilization systems in the workplace and on public transport (61%), and in pubs and bars (59%) also proved popular, as three quarters of those polled going as far to say that rating systems – similar to the ones used for food hygiene – should be introduced for air quality in indoor spaces.

The research comes as evidence suggests that the vast majority of COVID-19 infections happen indoors, and as experts highlight the lack of understanding around how aerosols – microscopic particles emitted from mouths that unlike droplets, float mid-air until they’re blown away – impact the transmission of airborne viruses.

Stephen Slater, Managing Director at So Pure Air, commented: “We’ve been living with the pandemic and the new societal norms that came with it for so long now that it’s no surprise some of us feel a little uneasy about picking up where we left off and returning to life as we once knew it.

“As restrictions are lifted and we ease our way back into our day-to-day routines, it’s clear that that the majority of people won’t feel completely at ease until measures that are proven to either reduce the prevalence of germs in the air, or prevent the spread of them from person-to-person are introduced.

“It’s widely understood that transmissions of viruses – including COVID-19 – occur more often indoors, and scientific experts have highlighted the lack of understanding around how aerosols (microscopic particles emitted from mouths that unlike droplets, float mid-air until they’re blown away) impact the transmission of airborne viruses, meaning that this should should be a priority for us all as we come out of the pandemic – whether that’s via open-window policies, mandatory mask wearing or the compulsory introduction of technology that purifies air within enclosed spaces.”

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