The COVID-19 pandemic is far from over. While many employees have enjoyed working from home, others are keen to embrace a hybrid approach to work where they split their time between the office and remote locations.
This enables workers and their employers to get the best of both worlds where office time is used for collaboration and more organic peer-based learning opportunities, whereas remote working is used for focused work.
In this context, companies across the world are grappling with how to safely enable workers to return to the office and avoid spikes of COVID-19 cases that could cripple the business. This is becoming even more urgent with the new COVID-19 variant – Omicron – being up to four times more transmissible than previous variants.
Mandates have gone even further in the US where the Biden administration has now implemented a vaccine or testing requirement for all companies with more than 100 employees.
This is impacting up to 80 million workers across the country and has prompted concerns from unions and employee associations that this could exacerbate already worrying staff shortages in sectors like logistics and hospitality ahead of the Christmas holiday season.
Employee attitudes to vaccine mandates
The argument that employees will quit if vaccines, mask wearing or testing is mandated by their employer assumes that employees are against these requirements. But research by the World Economic Forum (WEF) and Ipsos actually found that employees in the US and 32 other countries across the world are actually largely supportive of these workplace COVID-19 requirements.
78% of the 14,500 global employees surveyed agreed that everyone in the workplace should be fully vaccinated, while 74% thought those that weren’t vaccinated should undergo frequent testing and 81% wanted everyone at work to wear masks in the common areas.
In the US, 65% said they supported vaccine mandates, while 64% supported frequent testing and 70% agreed with mask-wearing. This increased to 85% for vaccine mandates, 79% for testing, and 77% for masks in the UK.
The WEF/Ipsos study also found that only 9% of workers would evade testing or vaccine mandates and only 5% across the world would quit their jobs if COVID-19 requirements were in place.
This doubled to 12% for the US, but only grew 2% to 7% for the UK.
In addition, 62% of global employees said they did not feel comfortable going to the office if these measures were not in place. 31% who were uncomfortable would go in anyway, while 25% would work remotely and 6% would quit their job.
Talking about the findings, WEF’s head of health and healthcare Genya Dana commented: “Staying the course with safety measures that we know make a difference – vaccines, masks, testing – is incredibly important as we navigate this complex pandemic.
“We know that employers have had to assume many new responsibilities with regard to worker health and wellbeing since the start of the pandemic, and count on them as a trusted partner in this journey.”
Employees are clearly on board with the need to keep themselves and their colleagues safe; vigilance is going to be essential in avoiding any more unnecessary deaths from COVID-19 in 2022 and beyond.
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