Published: 15:38, 24 March 2021
| Updated: 17:07, 07 April 2021
New workplace Covid-19 testing "pods" have been introduced to a business park in Dartford in a move billed as providing a post-pandemic blueprint for the return of office life.
An official verdict on the future of working from home is due to be made before 21 June.
Before then staff are being encouraged by the Prime Minister to "continue to work from home" wherever possible, or to get tested if returning to the workplace.
Prenetics, a biotech firm which carries out testing for The Premier League, has recently launched 10 testing sites, including at Dartford offices belonging to IWG, the UK's largest flexible workspace provider.
"This initiative coincides well with the UK government’s offer to provide free onsite testing services for individuals at work," explained the company's chief executive Avi Lasarow.
The first pods are tucked away in the corner of a car park at Regus Dartford's Admirals Park, off Crossways Boulevard.
It offers lateral flow or laboratory tests – known as PCR tests – to workers based on site, and members of the public, at a cost of up to £110.
Results are then delivered via mobile app and forwarded to Public Health England and Track and Trace.
The government is currently offering free workplace testing to all UK businesses, including those with more than 50 employees provided they sign up to its scheme by 31 March.
However, tests will only be provided without charge until the end of June, before the expected date of any large-scale return to work.
Three-fifth of managers (60%) surveyed by the Chartered Management Institute reported that testing was, or would likely be, available for employees – although it is unsure whether it will be made compulsory.
Prenetics is anticipating a national "back to work" offer of free workplace testing from the government.
Its current partnership with IWG is expected to support the return to the workplace, as many small and medium-sized enterprises lack the resources to fund such a programme, the company says.
If the workplace testing regime was to be extended further afield it envisages its systems would be well placed to assist.
This could potentially pave the way for a post pandemic work landscape in which employees might be expected to arrive 30 minutes early to be tested, before being granted entry.
Prenetics has also established its own digital health passport for access to future events.
This will allow users to take advantage of a "full end-to-end digital journey" when testing and obtain entry to future sporting and entertainment spectacles, the genetic tester says.
Company boss Avi Lasarow has called on the government to engage the "little ships" of the private sector in supporting a new national "testing-at-work" initiative.
He said: “We are delighted to be deploying our proven systems developed for international travel, businesses, and for our elite sporting bodies with IWG, starting with its largest known brand Regus.
"We will be happy to partner with these initiatives through our tried and tested expertise and services."