As lockdown restrictions are relaxed across the UK, employees who can’t work from home are being asked to return to work. But even though new cases of Covid-19 have fallen rapidly, many of us are still anxious about venturing out of the safety of our homes and the security of our new routines, for the first time in months. It’s a similar situation in parts of the US, where many employees have said they don’t feel safe or comfortable returning to business as usual.
The onus is on employers to ensure the health, safety and well-being of those who are asked back, through measures such as staggered start times, physical barriers and a mix of in-the-office/at-home working. What’s more, technically, no notice is required for employers to ask employees to return to work, which only adds to the uncertainty. Then there’s the impending recession and what this means for future job security. All things considered, you’re probably in the minority if you’re not anxious about returning to work.
Anna Henderson, 26, from Colliers Wood, south London, is a freelance sculptor and artist within the film industry. Currently on furlough from a short-term PAYE contract, she doesn’t know when she’ll be returning to work, but she’s already “very worried” about catching the virus on her commute: three Tube lines, a train and a bus each way. Despite assurances from Transport for London, she’s not confident about being able to social distance on the network. “The Tube is always packed, even at 6am when I start my journey. It’s unrealistic to assume people will social distance and I don’t see how TfL can enforce it,” says Anna.
She’s worried about infecting her flatmates (both of whom are working from home), her co-workers (some of whom live with high-risk family members), and her own health. “Getting on a Tube feels like a death wish. I’ve looked into B&Bs near where I work, but I can’t afford it on top of my rent.”