Can offices remain open

Are offices allowed to remain open?

Are offices allowed to remain open?

The new guidance from the government on working from home has caused confusion amongst employers. There are questions as to whether offices can stay open if they want to, despite the changed advice on Tuesday.


We understand that many employers have launched extensive and costly plans to gradually reopen their workplaces so that their employees can begin to safely return. Many will see it as a shame for offices to shut after making these changes to adapt to the new guidelines. HR experts are advising to consider all factors before asking staff to work from home once again. Even if employee’s jobs do not require them to be in the office, it may be the best place for them to be.


Issues which an employee may face when working from home:


  • Wellbeing negatively affected, causing low morale and productivity
  • Poor working space at home – nowhere suitable to work, small desk, no desk chair, poor lighting
  • Motivation and engagement becoming low
  • Children at home causing a distraction


Kathleen Haycock, who is a partner at law firm, Farrer and Co has discussed the announcement advising that it was phrased as a request or guidance. ‘From what I have seen, allowing these people to continue to work in the office would not be unlawful’. Therefore, if you do not want to shut your offices you do not legally have to.


Ben Willmott, head of Public Policy at CIPD has spoken about this new advice and has offered guidance on it.


Employees could continue to work in the office if all of these points stand:

  • If someone is struggling with stress or anxiety related to working from home and their wellbeing relies on working in the office
  • Employees are unable to do their job productively at home
  • The office is COVID secure and safe to work in


However, he did highlight the importance of the health and safety reasons behind the changed recommendations and has stated that it does need to be recognised. The working from home request from the government has reasoning behind it; to reduce the spread of COVID19. It not only reduces employees coming into contact with each other, but will reduce the number of commuters on public transport at busy periods of the day. This in turn will contribute to reducing the spread. Only if the specific reasons as to why an employee cannot work at home is to do with their wellbeing should the office remain open. If you are unsure about keeping the office open full time, you could consider allowing staff in the office a few days a week.


Ultimately the organisation should make a decision based on the information you have about your employees and whether your workplace is COVID secure. The decision should be where you think your staff are best placed in terms of their safety and wellbeing.


If you have any concerns or would like to discuss any of these new guidelines further, please get in contact with the HPC team today.



T: 0844 800 5932


Twitter: @HPC_HRServices

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