Many businesses have only recently welcomed their employees back into the office after Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s original ‘Work From Home’ order at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet teams may well have to leave the office behind as the wave of Omicron surges.
Boris Johnson was keen to highlight that these new restrictions are not the same as the lockdowns we became all too familiar with: “it’s not a lockdown, it’s Plan B.” He asserted that these measures were the “proportionate and responsible” thing to do as the threat of Omicron increases.
Much is still unknown about the Omicron variant of COVID-19, but the professionals are learning more and more each day. These measures have come into play as Omicron “could lead to a big rise in hospitalisations and therefore sadly in deaths”, and it is “growing much faster” than the Delta variant. Early analysis has suggested that cases could be doubling every two and a half to three days.
Do I Need To Work From Home in England?
The guidance surrounding working from home in England has changed. People are now being asked to work from home where possible, in order to prevent the spread of the Omicron variant across the country. Homeowners will be back to working remotely on their kitchen tables and trying to make the most of their dining rooms, despite Boris Johnson saying to the public: “go to work if you must, but work from home if you can.”
It’s just one of the reasons that builders are increasingly seeing an increase in enquiries for garden buildings so workers can still enjoy work/life separation.
It is how worried the government is about Omicron, but what isn’t clear is just what comes into play when considering if a person can work from home. If someone could technically work from home, but are far more productive in the office, should they make the change to working from home again?
Is The Rest of the UK Working From Home?
In Scotland, employers were told that all those who worked remotely at the beginning of the pandemic should be able to do so once again. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has asked for this to be the case until at least the middle of January 2022.
In Wales, employers have been encouraged to allow people to work from home wherever possible. Welsh guidance states that staff shouldn’t be “required or placed under pressure to return” back to the workplace or office unless there is a clear business need to do so.
In Northern Ireland, ministers have asserted that working from home would help to reduce the spread of COVID both inside and outside of the workplace. However, they haven’t set any restrictions on being in the physical workplace: they’ve asked employers to support working from home and working remotely “where possible”.
What Other Restrictions Are Being Introduced?
On top of re-introducing working remotely and from home, restrictions and guidance on face coverings and COVID status updates have been introduced.
Face coverings are now required in most indoor venues, unless a person is exempt from wearing a face covering. People could also be asked to show proof of their COVID status – if the MPs vote for it – to enter:
- Indoor unseated venues with more than 500 people
- Unseated outdoor venues with more than 4,000 people
- Any venue with more than 10,000 people.
What Should Open Businesses Do to Maintain Hygiene?
Many construction businesses have remained open and that includes showrooms – maintaining hygiene is paramount.
Once again, firms operating within the public sphere or hosting employees at their desks will need to up their game to maintain hygiene.
This includes the use of surface protection and whether it is using the right materials and panels for their tables and desk and always making sure that they are being wiped.
The role of plastic screens between desks is always welcomed and by now should probably be obligatory. The use of face masks to be worn at all times and hand sanitisers at every door should continue to be implemented and monitored regularly.