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Prime minister Boris Johnson has announced that social distancing will be reduced from two metres to one metre and that most businesses can start to reopen from early July.
Pressure has been growing for Johnson to ease lockdown restrictions as fears of a recession grow with businesses remaining closed.
From 4 July, the hospitality sector will get a chance to reopen, with social-distancing limits enforced, and more offices are also planning to welcome back employees.
That move will certainly be welcomed by Martin Hess, managing director of Cancom UK.
“I want the office back because it provides energy, it provides innovation and it provides edge. Most of us are social animals and the office gives you purpose, momentum and boundaries to the working day,” he said.
Cancom's UK staff are being encouraged to return, although the decision is voluntary and up to each employee.
“We are not encouraging people to return to the office for the sake of it,” added Hess “I’m very conscious Covid-19 affected a lot of people. But as leaders, it is our responsibility to get our economy back on its feet. By bringing people back into offices we are re-energising our business community and the economy at large.”
The firm reopened its offices on 26 May and has around a quarter of the workforce back at their desks in offices in London, Sussex and Huntingdon.
The decision to reopen was made following government guidelines and ensuring that all locations would be safe.
“We need to switch mindsets from one of fear to one of positivity. We need to kick-start the economy. The economy isn’t about money, it’s about people’s lives. I would urge all business lobby groups and business leaders to get on the front foot and encourage other businesses to start opening their offices,” he added.
Many employers are expecting a significant number of staff to continue to work remotely, with the genie very much out of the bottle for many who have not experienced home working before.
Fears that the lockdown and home working would have hit productivity have not materialised, with recent research from Jabra indicating that 56% of workers feel more productive at home than in the office.
The research also showed that 70% of workers who are new to working from home said that current working requirements demonstrate that a physical workplace isn’t necessary, and 46% want a flexible office arrangement going forward.
“Being able to both concentrate and collaborate efficiently is key for creating productive working environments, whether in the office or at home. When you have the right equipment, anywhere is an office or meeting room," said Nigel Dunn, managing director of EMEA North at Jabra.
The movements announced on 23 June by Johnson will encourage more of a return to normality, but fears remain that there could be flare-ups – and the experiences in Germany this week, with the R number climbing, have given a reminder of the risks of operating with a virus in the wild that still has no vaccine.
“Given the fall in the prevalence of the virus, we can change the two-metre rule from 4 July,” Johnson said in a House of Commons statement. He acknowledged that sticking at the current two metres would make life very difficult for many businesses, particularly those in the hospitality sector.
“Where it is possible to keep two metres apart, people should,” he added. “But where it is not, we will advise people to keep a social distance of one metre-plus, meaning they should remain one metre apart, while taking mitigations to reduce the risk of transmission.”
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