More than half of Australians (52 per cent) feel uncomfortable about returning to the workplace right now with the vast majority (93 per cent) of people saying it is important that they are allowed to work remotely at any point if they feel unsafe.
This is the key finding from Qualtrics’ Return to Work & Back to Business Study, a survey which asked 507 Australians how confident they felt about returning to the workplace or visiting public establishments right now—and what it would take for them to feel comfortable doing so.
While the majority of workers (60 per cent) expect to return to the workplace by the end of July, around one in three Australian respondents say a treatment (32 per cent) or vaccine (34 per cent) for COVID-19 must be approved for them to feel comfortable returning to the workplace. Furthermore, around half want to wait for state (53 per cent) and federal (49 per cent) government approval before returning to the office.
“Australia has done remarkably well to flatten the curve and it’s exciting to see government ease restrictions for businesses. But as they do employers and businesses need to remember the pace with which they are re-opening might not match their employees’ or customers’ readiness to return,” said Qualtrics managing director in APJ Brigid Archibald.
“Employee and customer expectations have accelerated at an unprecedented rate in recent months. As restrictions continue to lift, organisations and governments need to understand how employee and customer behaviours and attitudes have changed so that they can take actions helping them feel confident during this next phase of the ‘new normal’. Those organisations able to rapidly listen, understand, and act on the issues that make employees and customers feel confident to return – using tools like the Qualtrics Return to Work Pulse – will have a distinct advantage in this uncertain and rapidly changing period,” added Archibald.
Returning to work – key findings
The survey found that before they feel ready to return to work, employees want their employers to put the following safety practices in place:
- 63 per cent of workers want hand sanitiser and cleaning supplies available in the office
- 52 per cent want policies prohibiting handshakes and hugs
- 49 per cent want social distancing enforced
- 45 per cent want limits to sizes of workplace meetings
- 42 per cent want people with compromised health to be required to work from home
Once they do return to work, employees said they would feel more comfortable if the following measures are taken by their employer to protect themselves and their co-workers:
- 93 per cent of workers want to be allowed to work remotely at any point if they feel unsafe
- 88 per cent of workers want to limit the number of people in an in-person work meeting
- 79 per cent of workers want everyone to have their temperature checked each day before entering the workplace
- 60 per cent of workers said it was important to them that employees be required to wear masks
Getting back to business – key findings
Despite restrictions starting to ease, people still don’t feel confident interacting with each other and almost half (49 per cent) think we will never “get back to normal”.
Over two thirds (63 per cent) or respondents admit they still feel uncomfortable going to the gym, despite gyms and other indoor activities like yoga and pilates starting to reopen. In addition, more than half (58 per cent) of respondents say they would feel uncomfortable playing a team sport and a similar proportion (52 per cent) wouldn’t want to attend a religious service.
Live concert and sporting events: While sporting events like the NRL and AFL have restarted and will begin to welcome back spectators, two-thirds (66 per cent) of respondents say they wouldn’t feel comfortable attending a live sporting event until September 1 or later. This number increases to 76 per cent when applied to attending a live concert until September 1 or later.
Restaurants: Though restaurants have started to reopen, almost half (49 per cent) of people say they would feel uncomfortable eating at a restaurant right now. More than a third (39 per cent) of people say they wouldn’t feel comfortable eating in a restaurant until September 1 or later.
Even after public health officials say it’s safe, and a treatment or vaccine for the virus is readily available, there are a number of measures people want to see in place before they feel comfortable dining at a restaurant:
- 13 per cent want tables separated at a safe distance
- 13 per cent want social distancing established
- 9 per cent want servers and staff to wear gloves and masks
- 9 per cent want their temperatures checked before going into the restaurant
Flights and public transit: When it comes to public transport, almost two thirds (59 per cent) of people feel uncomfortable using it right now, and 71 per cent would feel uncomfortable flying on an airplane.
“As measures lift and businesses continue to reopen in the coming weeks and months, it’s essential they can understand how customers feel. Identifying the measures customers want to see implemented allows businesses to take action in the areas that matter most. Capturing feedback from frontline staff and digital channels will equip organisations with the data they need to cultivate consumer trust and confidence, and ultimately move forward,” added Archibald.
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