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Objectives: Human behavioural factors are an important consideration in the response to COVID-19 outbreaks. Prior to the emergence of highly infectious variants of SARS-CoV-2 and implementation of vaccination programmes, we conducted a study to explore the role of behavioural factors influencing transmission at an essential services workplace during an outbreak of COVID-19. Study design: Observational cohort study. Methods: In response to a COVID-19 outbreak in November 2020 at an office-based call centre workplace providing an essential service in Thames Valley, we designed and conducted an anonymous staff questionnaire to explore potential behavioural factors of staff behaviour that influence transmission. Results: A total of 45 staff (27%) tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 over a six-week period between 26 October and 14 December 2020. The online questionnaire was cascaded to 168 staff members; the response rate was 41%. Self-reported use of hand sanitiser, face masks and cleaning of equipment in line with workplace guidance was 86%, 66% and 63% respectively. On the same behaviours, respondents reported that 33%, 31% and 14% of their colleagues followed the recommendations. Almost two thirds of respondents (63%) reported that they were unable to maintain social distancing at the workplace, primarily due to operational constraints. Conclusions: Prevention and control of COVID-19 outbreaks at workplaces providing an essential service is challenging. Operational requirements, often compounded by reduced staff availability, impede implementation of more robust control measures. Ongoing assessment of human behavioural factors in the control of COVID-19 outbreaks at workplaces in the post-vaccine era is essential.

Original publication




Journal article


Public Health in Practice

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