A survey among people who work at Milton Park has revealed the biggest fear of returning to the workplace is the ability to socially distance.

A total of 605 responses were received including 57 from business leaders. It was carried out between May 13 and May 22.

The survey findings included:

People’s greatest concerns on returning to work were, in order of their biggest worry.

  1. The ability to socially distance in the workplace
  2. Managing my domestic situation ie childcare or living with a vulnerable household or living with a keyworker
  3. The commute
  4. Cleanliness of the workplace.

People’s feelings about returning to the workplace.

24.73 per cent said, with the right safeguards in place, they were ready to be back in the workplace

22.16 per cent said they were concerned and were worried about some elements of the return

38.46 per cent said they were very concerned that there are too many unknowns and would prefer to continue remote working

13.55 per cent said that they or someone they live with are vulnerable

9.16 per cent said they had continued to work at the ark throughout the outbreak.

Of the 57 business leaders who replied, 95 per cent said that they had a Covid-19 return to work strategy or plan in place or were working on one.

When business leaders were asked how they plan to reconfigure their physical workspace as part of their return to work strategy, eg to enable social distancing:

24.53 per cent said they were considering making substantial changes to their physical workspace.

49.06 per cent said they were considering making minor changes to their workspace.

11.32 per cent said they didn’t yet know.

15.09 per cent said they will make no changes.


Asked their normal travel to work option, 81.64 per cent of respondents said by car, with others choosing mostly bike or bus.

However, 20.22 per cent said they are considering changing modes when they return to work.

Philip Campbell, commercial director, Milton Park writes: “With so many changes impacting so many people in different ways, several businesses have asked us about the return to work intentions of other Milton Park occupiers and we wanted to share the feedback we have heard from people in our community.

“The aim is for such results to assist our occupiers and people who work here so that they can understand how people are feeling and can plan for when people are ready to return to work.

“The survey showed us that by and large business leaders were more confident about returning to the workplace than employees. We believe this is because business owners will have thought about what they need to put in place and a better knowledge of what they need to do. Therefore, we believe that communication with staff around measures that have been put in place will be key.

“The survey suggests that between now and September, up to 50 per cent of our 9,000-strong community will return to work. This may be as staggered working or spread over a period of days.

“However, this will mean that socially distancing should be easier during this time as a significant proportion of people will remain working from home for various reasons, which will mean commuting might be easier too.

“We expect smaller companies to return to work more rapidly than larger companies which have tended to prepare space for people’s return, but they will stagger return to work times and days and leave the decision to continue to work from home with the individuals.

“The survey also suggested that there will generational differences when it comes to returning to work. Those that are likely to stay at home are those who are vulnerable, live with a vulnerable person or with someone who is a key worker.

“Those with childcare issues or other domestic issues will face problems coming in every day until things in the outside work return to a new normal. Those younger people, who are not in the vulnerable category and may not have such domestic situations, indicated that they were keen to return to work and see colleagues.

“On food and drink, as outdoor markets have started to reopen from June 1, we are looking at catering facilities to make people’s return to work easier, from their daily coffee to grabbing a bite to eat at lunchtime. More news on this will follow.

“We were encouraged to see that there is a desire for more of cycling and walking in the future. We know from our recent travel survey that around 40 per cent of occupiers at Milton Park use public transport, cycling or walking to get to work. Our data shows that cycling and walking levels in the area have surged during lockdown and many people are seeking to continue those activities on their daily commute, helping to keep Milton Park and the surrounding area greener and cleaner as people start to return.

“In response to feedback, we are also looking to reduce the park’s speed limit from 30mph to 20mph which will help people to feel safer when using the footpaths for walking and running while carrying out social distancing.

“For the first time, we have seen our loan bike hire being used from Milton Park to Oxford, showing that people are looking to change their habits.

“We are fortunate that, as our name suggests, as a park, we are in 214 acres of ownership, of which 43 acres (20 per cent) is open and landscaped space made-up of water, shrubs and grass and 2,653 trees.

“We have 80,000 sq m of grass, so with 9,000 people working here, this works out at nearly nine sq m per person. With 50 per cent due back by September, that’s nearly 18 sq m per person. We believe it’s important to reassure people that there is plenty of open space to share for when people return.

“We encourage people to use our beautiful grounds, they are theirs to enjoy, from outdoor meeting to walking meetings, they can use the space, including the footpaths on Kelaart Field to the north of the park in between the park and Sutton Courtenay, to get fresh air.

“We already have nearly two miles of paths and we are working on more measures to improve outdoor working, outdoor places and walking and cycling options. We have nearly completed a new cycle link from Backhill tunnel to Kelaart Field which is nearly 0.62 miles of new shared pedestrian/cycle route which will include a new bridge over Moor Ditch and connect into a new cycle route which Oxfordshire County Council will be constructing to connect us to Abingdon and further afield.

“All the responses have helped our facilities managers and our team to plan for people’s return, so a heartfelt thank you to everyone who took the time to share their thoughts.”

People who took part in the survey were asked to nominate their charity for the chance of a donation of £250 and nominations were made for 149 different charities, the most popular being Mind, the NHS Charities Together and many homeless and foodbank charities.

Simon Granger, chief financial officer at occupier OmPrompt, was the winner who nominated Homeless Oxfordshire. OmPrompt will match the £250 donation.

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