Returning to work in the UK

Claire Ruskin, Executive Director of Cambridge Network, says the staff of many local businesses are continuing to work from home - with a resulting increase in productivity...

working from home_ Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

With 1,500 organisations working with Cambridge Network locally, many with international offices or parent companies, we have been asked by a number of businesses about plans for returning to work following the Covid-19 lockdown.

Economic recovery is vital even before we have vaccines or control of this particular virus and we need to be prepared for further interruptions.

We have spoken with large numbers of people and had detailed responses to a question we put out to key members.

In summary, companies, the universities and institutes are continuing to follow the UK Government’s guidance to only travel and use offices if staff cannot work from home.  We have exceptions for processing and manufacturing businesses, and in those cases considerable effort is going into health and safety requirements both on site and for travel arrangements.

For office staff every company reporting has found that traditional challenges of trust and productivity have been overcome very quickly, by good management replacing presenteeism.

This region is particularly lucky that its success is based on knowledge-intensive industry, and productivity seems to have gone up during lockdown.  This is, of course, balanced by the retail, hospitality and tourism industries where work has vanished and there is already much hardship.

The following excerpts are typical of responses we have received today:

"Our offices will remain closed until 1st Jan 2021 in order to support the government in slowing the spread of the virus. We can all work remotely and don't wish to put our employees under any unnecessary pressure. We have said for those who struggle to work from home that when things further quieten down and the government relaxes measures they can go in on a rota basis where we manage social distancing appropriately but so far we only have one person requesting to go in, due to their personal circumstances."

"I work for a company with a US head office so I know that the US and Asia are acting differently. We are in Cambridge.  We were very quick to act on site closures ahead of government guidance and will be taking a very cautious approach to returning to the office. Our approach takes into consideration local government guidance and practices. For now in the UK, only those who have roles that truly require to be in the office are able to go to site, we have implemented social distancing practices and shift working, staggered starts, etc. This way we believe we are doing everything we can to protect our employees and keep them engaged."

"We are following the Government guidelines and all those who can work from home are doing so.  Our CEO does not want non-essential staff to return to work under any circumstances until it safe to do so. His main focus is keeping everyone safe and he trusts us to be productive and, to be honest, most of us are working longer hours than we were if we had been in the office as the landscape has changed."

I have also been sent various guidelines (AstraZeneca’s are particularly good and we’ve put them on our website with AstraZeneca's permission here) and the current UK Government direction can be downloaded here.  

We will be compiling a longer report of the findings as we are also helping the local authorities with transport planning through the economic recovery.  We ourselves are unable to return to work as the University of Cambridge has shut our building, but we have pivoted quickly to fully working from home and have no plans to return in the foreseeable future.  

Life has changed to being more productive with good IT and communications.  Your feedback and thoughts will be welcome.


Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay