End to WFH could lead to an ‘unholy trinity of disease transmission’

A workplace health, safety and wellbeing expert has criticised the UK Government’s drive to end working from home as part of the ‘Living with Covid’ announcement, suggesting the combination of a mass return to work, the removal of mandatory isolation following a positive Covid-19 diagnosis and a lack of free lateral flow tests could lead to an ‘unholy trinity of disease transmission’. This is the view of Professor Craig Jackson, Occupational Health Psychologist at Birmingham City University.

It seems a retrogressive step for a Government to eschew hybrid working and to actively encourage a return to the old ways of working.”

There will be many workers who have found a new balance to their working lives as a result of the lockdown, and many will not want to lose the benefits gained in the last few years, especially without good reason to.

The UK has already seen almost one million workers change jobs during the pandemic following the realisation that old ways of working were not in their best interests, and this workplace exodus may broaden further if the freedom to work progressively is discouraged.

The consequences for workplace health and public health could be terrible if organisations make their workforces return to their workstations for the majority, or all of their working time, especially when coupled with no further requirements for people to isolate when ill with Covid-19, and a lack of free lateral flow testing kits made available.

This would seem to make for an unholy trinity of disease transmission, and from an epidemiological standpoint it beggars belief. Workplaces and commuting hubs will no doubt become the new disease vectors for new strains of Covid-19 (be they mild or severe) and this will be particularly difficult to manage in many cities with poor vaccination uptake levels, such as those in the West Midlands.”

The low-paid, hourly-paid and zero-hour contract workers [particularly younger workers and those workers with few employment options] will be hit first and hard by the premature removal of restrictions.

From the outset of lockdown, many organisations saw this as a chance to consider changing the way they “do work” by having staff away from their offices and workstations for some or all of the working week.

Companies get more from their workers in terms of productivity, fresh ideas, enthusiasm, and even loyalty, as many staff find working at home aids the integration of their home life and work, as well as the reduced commuter costs and being able to have more autonomy and decision latitude in how they do their work.

One thing has become abundantly clear, in that many organisations have decided they do not want to go back to the old way of working, and they have acknowledged that a combination of home-working and office-working (in whatever ratio) has been extremely popular with many workers.