As countries relax their COVID-19 lockdown restrictions, businesses are starting to resume operations and employees are going back to work. However, how do the workers feel about this? Are they happy to be working again as usual or are they unhappy about how things are shaping up?
Going back to work
How employees feel about going back depends on whether they are working in factories or offices. Factory workers have been sitting idly at home for the past several weeks, not getting a source of income and struggling to make ends meet. As such, many of them are happy that they can now go back to work to earn their usual wages and ease their financial situation. In contrast, office workers who have been working from their homes might feel dissatisfied with having to go back to work and return to their usual schedule of commuting to the office, working from 9 to 5, and traveling back home. However, those who crave having people around will be happy with being surrounded by peers once more.
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Both factory and office workers share fears about the virus. Since the pandemic has yet to be eradicated, the possibility of contracting the virus remains high. “I wasn’t happy to go back as I feel it’s way too soon… But I felt like I should keep the company going. I don’t want to be unemployed in what I suspect will be a phenomenal global recession,” a factory worker said to the BBC. Almost all businesses have mandated employees to wear protection like gloves, masks, etc., and to observe social distancing rules. But implementing these policies is a big concern.
Even if some workers strictly adhere to these rules, there will be those who do not observe them at all. For instance, a manager might feel that he does not need to wear a mask. Even if an underling is unhappy about this, he will be in no position to complain due to the difference in position. As such, the underling can only hope that he doesn’t get the virus from the manager. Many factories and offices will face this problem.
In the UK, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has mandated guidelines that businesses should observe on their premises. More than 5,000 workers have contacted the HSE in just 2 months, complaining about the lack of COVID-19 safety protocols in their place of employment. The HSE has taken strict action against such companies, forcing them to comply with safety guidelines. Other nations may also need such government enforcement to ensure that their businesses also follow COVID-19 safety measures.
Employees with kids have an additional problem to deal with — who will take care of their children when they are back at work? Most child care centers have been shut down. Babysitting is also a risky option — what if the babysitter is infected and passes the virus on to their kids? These concerns also have to be addressed before people with children are mentally prepared to be at work.
Even if remote working becomes more prevalent in the near future, does it mean that most people will choose to work from their homes? Probably not. Some experts feel that co-working spaces might see a boom. This is because people are social creatures by nature. Working alone might be suitable for some people. But for others, being alone at home with no one to talk to might be a bit too stressful. After all, an office is not just a place where people work. It is also a place where they develop friendships.
Co-working spaces allow people to rent out space in a building, which in most cases will be a chair, a desk, and a computer. There is a good chance that many remote workers might choose a co-working space near their homes just to have physical proximity to others. Close friends, who work for different companies, might even decide to rent a whole room for themselves so as to be near one another.