Lifting off from lockdown: The true cost of getting back to business

By Anita Jaynes on 1 July, 2020

The Business Exchange regularly receives lots of untargeted press releases from firms from all over the country wanting us to run their story. We have a strict local policy and only run stories on businesses or issues affecting our business community in Bath and Somerset.

This morning I found in my inbox a generic press release from a Public Relations firm with offices based in Newcastle, London and Edinburgh. The story they sent isn’t a local one, but the content affects everyone in the UK and many parts of the world. The subject and PR pitch headline: ‘Returning to our offices is set to cost the UK £368 million in Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) costs’. I took a look at the full story and it tackles what’s been worrying me for awhile, who’s going to pay for the cost of returning to work? What is acceptable for businesses to have to pay to keep staff safe? What is acceptable for employees to pay? Should the Government be made to contribute? With so many firms going into liquidation this is a grave issue as it could be the driving force that pushes many more down the same path.

Here is the release in full… I’m keen to get your thoughts. Are the costs realistic? Are they inflated? What are you doing in your business to tackle the PPE issue? How can we work collectively locally? Can we organise a bulk buy to drive down costs?

// Getting Back into Business: The Comeback Costs After Lockdown //

The UK is getting back into business. Gradually, sector by sector, we are beginning to embrace the ‘new normal’, and businesses are once again raring to go. After the most recent loosening of lockdown measures, many pubs, bars, and restaurants are due to open their doors to the public again from this weekend. The likelihood is that not long after this, most offices will begin to reopen as well, and the 8.4 million people who were furloughed and the many working from home will return to their workplace, ready to make up for lost time.

However, it won’t be quite as simple as wandering back to your old desk, greeting your colleagues, and getting back to normal as if nothing has changed. Workplaces are set to undergo a complete transformation, adjusting to the legal requirements of social distancing and the ethical requirements of supplying employees with the necessary PPE to feel safe in the workplace. The new workplace will involve many essential measures, but from squirts of sanitiser to mandatory face masks, how much is this all going to cost? Let’s take a closer look at the breakdown of PPE costs and find out how much the UK is going to have to fork out for the safety and wellbeing of its workers in the following months.

Hand Sanitiser — £3,058,560 (per day)

Since the beginning of the Covid-19 outbreak, hand sanitiser has become an essential item, and many wouldn’t leave their home, let alone re-enter the workplace, without one in their bag. Health and Safety England have set out guidelines for the use of hand sanitiser including tips on how to identify a suitable product for your workplace, but how much is this product really going to set us back?

For every single full-time employee to get two pumps of hand sanitiser for every hour they are at work, the overall cost for one day back in the office will amount to £3,683,041,021! And it looks like this measure will certainly be needed for the foreseeable future.

Face Masks — £72,000,000 (per day)

Next up, we have face masks. Face masks are absolutely essential for frontline workers and they are now also a legal requirement for anyone travelling on public transport in England and Scotland, whilst recommend in Wales and Northern Ireland. It will be at each business’s own discretion whether or not facemasks are essential in the workplace. But for service industry workers in particular, face masks are of great importance and could play a vital role in protecting staff.

In total, the UK would have to fork out £36,000,000 to ensure that each and every full-time worker has access to a face mask. For two masks each, which would be more appropriate, the cost would amount to a staggering £72,000,000.

Floor Markings — £1,234,309,789

Social distancing is set to remain in place as we return to our places of work, with two metres being the original rule, and one metre distancing coming into play when necessary (‘1m-plus’). However, when there is a large number of employees or customers in one space, are necessary to uphold the social distancing regulations.

In the UK today, there are 678,192,192.00 square metres of commercial space. So, to have social distance markings at every two metres, it will collectively cost £1,234,309,789 for businesses in the UK.

Deep cleaning — £2,373,672,672 (per day)

As well as getting all the PPE in place as employees gradually re-enter the workplace across the country, businesses are going to have to dramatically step up their hygiene efforts. Naturally, this will call for regular deep cleans so that every surface is left sparkling.

For every business to conduct one thorough deep clean, therefore covering every inch of commercial square foot in the country, the overall cost will come to £2,373,672,672.

Training — Free!

Finally, we have the cost of training staff in essential health and safety procedures. Thankfully, the World Health Organization is offering online training courses completely free of charge. These courses include subjects such as Infection and Prevention Control, health and safety briefings for respiratory diseases, Operational Planning Guidelines, and more.

Overall total — £368,304,102

So, for day one back in the office, the collective cost for the UK will be a staggering, £368,304,102. Three hundred million may seem steep, but for the businesses that are beginning to reopen, health and safety must be the priority above all else.

This research was carried out by Gary Peeling, CEO at Where The Trade Buys. 

If your business is impacted by the PPE issue and you’re concerned about how your company is going to cover these costs, please get in touch. Equally, if you think you may have ideas to help, we’d love to hear from you. We want to help businesses as much as possible at this time by using our audience to both connect and signpost organisations to the information needed to survive and thrive. Email: