THOUSANDS of York office workers are set to continue working from home this autumn as bosses make the safety of employees their top priority.
Offices will continue to operate at greatly reduced capacity to allow for social distancing – and that could have a major knock-on impact on city centre cafes, bars and takeaways who normally get important trade from office staff, as well as public transport providers.
Aviva, one of York’s biggest employers, with about 2,000 members of staff at offices near Lendal Bridge and at Monks Cross, said it had welcomed a small number back in June and would invite more back next month, but this would still mean only about 200 employees being back in its premises.
“We will use this as an opportunity to test and assess different approaches to blending remote and office working and gather feedback from our people, while ensuring our offices remain a safe environment in the context of Covid-19,” said a spokeswoman.
“We will continue to review and assess our approach and aim to gradually increase building capacity from October, subject to Covid-19 and Government advice.”
She said Aviva would use the next few months to assess and trial different approaches to get a clearer picture of what customers and staff needed, looking into how it could blend office and homeworking, adding: “The safety and wellbeing of our people remains our priority.”
Up to 1,000 people normally work at City of York Council’s West Offices HQ but a spokesman said its position continued to be that, unless specifically agreed, those staff who had been working from home since the lockdown began would continue to do so.
“As always, our top priority is to ensure the safety of both staff and residents, with some officers working from home to further minimise any risks, without impacting service delivery,” he said.
“We are ensuring that council buildings are Covid secure, however, because of this work, they are reduced in their capacity.”
A Nestlé spokesman said flexible working had been a part of life for employees for years, so they were used to working remotely, and that meant the transition to fully remote working had been fairly smooth.
“At the moment, we are maintaining a reduced capacity in our offices to allow for social distancing measures,” he said.
“Those who want to return to the office can book a desk until that limit is reached while those who would prefer to work from home are continuing to do so. We will keep that approach under review over the coming months with a view to increasing capacity where possible.”
A Network Rail spokesman said that as people returned to its offices, working practices had changed and this was being managed through a clear risk assessment process.
“We expect more people to return in the coming months, but capacity remains limited as we maintain social distancing,” he said.
“We also have measures in place to make sure passengers, including people returning to work in offices, can travel safely.”