The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) have warned that pushing employees to return to work this summer could ultimately result in a third wave of the virus.
SAGE have suggested that workers should be homeworking indefinitely in order to avoid a spike in COVID-19 cases, following multiple lockdowns.
This suggestion has come in after the UK lowered the COVID-19 alert from Level 4 to Level 3, signalling the virus is now in “general transmission”.
However, the group have stated that working from home indefinitely is a cheap and simple way to reduce contact between people from various households, thereby limiting the potential of a new wave.
According to The Times, a senior advisor told the newspaper that a mass return to work would not favourable until the impact of lockdown easing was fully understood.
However, this approach has also divided the group itself.
Ian Boyd, SAGE member and University of St Andrews professor, advocated for the idea of homeworking:
Retaining sensible measures to reduce the rate of non-essential contact between people is proportionate in the circumstances.
However, Mike Tildesley, a professor at the University of Warwick who is also a member of SAGE weighed up the impact that prolonged homeworking could have on employee mental wellbeing:
People working from home will reduce risk of infection but at some point we also need to have some kind of return to normality from a mental health and wellbeing perspective.
This advice comes in the wake of many firms planning their return to work following the easing of restrictions in June. Recent research showed that, of the top 50 firms in the UK, over 80 per cent were considering to adopt a hybrid approach moving forward.
In addition to this, both the Chancellor (Rishi Sunak) and the Prime Minister have stated workers should return to offices and cities. This is in order to retain company culture as well as helping businesses within hospitality and retail, which rely on city workers, to stay afloat.
At this current time, Government guidance states employees who can work from home must do so.