Senior partner Nathan Richter spoke recently to Greg Turner, Sr. Director of Engineering for Honeywell Building Technologies, about how employees the world over feel about working in large buildings, both during and after the pandemic.
“[We were looking to] advance the conversation a little bit on the safe return to work,” Richter said during Honeywell’s webinar, explaining that in order to understand post-COVID workplace safety, Honeywell and Wakefield surveyed employees at large institutional workplaces who normally work in buildings of 500+ workers. Think college campuses, airports, hospitals or hotels, all facilities where workers—not to mention consumers—are at increased risk. As Richter explained, this was a unique opportunity: “If you take a look at what is available out in the marketplace, you don’t see a lot of publicly released data on this population, so we were really excited about that.”
The buildings were all large but served diverse purposes, yet as Richter put it: “Differences are not as great as the similarities.”
And the results were sometimes startling. A surprising majority of nearly 7 in 10 workers in Germany, the Middle East, the UK, and U.S. don’t feel completely safe in their employers’ buildings. Among those working remotely, an even greater 3 in 4 don’t feel completely safe—they feel so strongly that nearly 1 in 4 of those remote workers say they would look for new work rather than return to a site not implementing the requisite health and safety measures.
When asked by Turner about whom employees hold responsible for safety, Richter spoke to how results came back both expected and surprising: “Globally, 57% of workers feel that this responsibility mainly lies with their employer. That leaves 43% though who feel that building management is chiefly responsible—for us, that was the surprising finding.”
The two also discussed ways of looking at what the data reveals about workers’ opinions on air quality at their place of business. “What it tells us is that people are airing on the side of caution—they understand to some degree that there are multiple vectors, multiple areas than can be a risk to their safety.”
And the study’s results reflect this savvy among workers, with room for improvement. Overall, their concerns reflect up-to-date scientific guidance on mitigating the spread of COVID: 3 in 5 workers are more concerned about COVID-19 transmission through the air than through contact with a surface. That’s one reason why workers want their buildings’ managers to take the lead on safety—ventilation is a major concern that only building management can do anything about. In fact, more than 2 in 5 workers said that buildings with outdated ventilation systems are more dangerous than coworkers not following safety guidelines.
For more information about employees’ concerns—and what employers can do to best address them—watch Richter and Turner’s chat here: Honeywell “Building Bytes.”