Nearly two-thirds of Britons expect to return to work by the end of August, but they’re feeling uncomfortable about what awaits; before then, however, the prospect of going to the pub and nights out with friends top the list of what people are looking forward to as lockdown eases.

Research by communications agency BCW (500 interviews among a nationally representative sample of the British adult public between 14 and 18 May) found 60% of staff think the return to work will happen by the end of August. And 70% expect to be consulted about plans and changes to improve work safety.

There’s an understandable fear that going back to work could increase the risk of bringing COVID-19 into the home, cited by 45% of respondents, while 31% don’t trust that their colleagues are taking proper precautions in their own lives.

The vast majority would be supportive of having their temperature checked by their employer every morning when they arrive at work (88%) or wearing PPE (85%).

Most staffers also say they expect new cleaning protocols to be introduced (72%) and for work spaces to be separated (66%). And 69% expect to receive communications about detailed plans should COVID-19 be detected in the workplace.

But people also doubt that everything they would like will actually be delivered by employers – 70% would welcome routine testing for COVID-19, for example, but 50% think it unlikely their employer will do this.

“Returning to work will be a tricky balance for employers and employees alike, but a continuation of flexible policies, demonstrating empathy and providing clear guidelines and safety protocols will drive comfort and ultimately, employee engagement,” said Clarissa Valiquette, MD of PSB Insights EMEA, which conducted the research.

Separate research from Kantar, based on social listening, indicates how people’s priorities have shifted during the course of lockdown. Going back to work was never high on their list, but an initial concern about beauty therapy has been replaced by an urgent need to meet people, preferably in a drinking establishment: social mentions of looking forward to going to the pub have increased 3064% since lockdown began.

Kantar is also tracking search behaviour for each activity to support the social data, explained Andrew Nelson, Client Director, Social Media Insight. “In the UK, search interest in outdoor pursuits such as cycling and fishing is higher in recent weeks than at any time across the last five years,” he said.

“By using these insights and trends to keep a pulse on the attitudes and behaviours of consumers, brands and businesses will be well placed to both continue communicating with their audiences and engage with them around the activities they’re craving as we emerge from the lockdown,” he added.

Sourced from BCW, Kantar