Returning to the Workplace During the COVID-19 Pandemic: The Concerns of Australian Workers




Griffiths, Daniel
Sheehan, Luke
Vreden, Caryn van
Whiteford, Peter
Collie, Alex

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Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers


Purpose To determine the nature and prevalence of workers’ concerns regarding workplaces reopening during the pandemic. To identify characteristics of workers and industries where particular concerns are more common. Method Prospective cohort study of 1063 employed Australian adults, enrolled at the start of the pandemic. Data on attitudes to workplaces reopening were collected 1 July–30 September 2020. The frequency of concerns describes infection risk and changes to work and impact on home life. Regression models examined associations between demographic and industry factors with reopening concerns. Results More than four in five (82.4%) of workers reported concerns about workplace infection risk. Just over half (53.4%) reported concerns about impacts to work and home life. Concerns were more prevalent for workers reporting psychological distress, financial stress, and among those exclusively working from home. Concerns regarding infection risk were common for workers in health care (IRR 1.16, 95% CI [1.01, 1.33]), retail (IRR 1.31, 95% CI [1.06, 1.61]), and accommodation/food service industries (IRR 1.25, 95% CI [1.01, 1.55]). Concerns regarding changes to work and home life were more common for female workers (IRR 1.24, 95% CI [1.07, 1.43]), and partners/spouses with dependent children (IRR 1.44, 95% CI [1.16, 1.79]). Conclusion Concerns of COVID-19 infection in the workplace are common. Many workers are also concerned about changes to their work and home life. The prevalence of concerns is related to the nature of work and responsibilities at home. Actions that reduce risk of workplace transmission, coupled with effective communication of infection controls, may alleviate worker concerns whilst recognising workers’ family and social circumstances.



COVID-19, Infection risk, Working from home, Hygiene, Social distancing



Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation


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