A majority (71%) of U.S. workers don’t think COVID is ever going away. And 39% wish their employers would stop waiting to make permanent office-return policies based on a “return to normal” they believe will never come, according to new research from Qualtrics.
Employees also have dug in their heels on vaccine mandates since October, with almost half – 47% vs. 44% – saying they would consider leaving their current employer if all employees were required to be fully vaccinated.
The shift in sentiment comes as millions across the U.S. are ill with the Omicron variant of COVID-19, and the U.S. Supreme Court has struck down a federal mandate that employees at large companies be vaccinated. That places the onus on employers to decide how to ensure safety for employees, many of whom have been working from home for nearly two years without a long-term plan.
“The thing we are very commonly hearing from companies is that their employees are exhausted – they’re just at their wit’s end,” said Qualtrics’ Head of Employee Experience Advisory Services, Benjamin Granger, Ph.D. “Calls to be cautious are falling on deaf ears in many cases, because employees are coming to the realization that we will be living with this virus for a long time. They’re tired of the uncertainty and of waiting for ‘the new normal,’ and want their employers to acknowledge that we might be living in the new normal already.”
Even as Omicron sweeps across the country, workers said they are taking fewer precautions than they have throughout the pandemic.
- More than a third (43%) said they are being less cautious than they were with previous variants.
- More than half (54%) of employees say they are just as comfortable working in an office now as they were before Omicron.
- Only 21% have canceled work travel.
- 35% said they think their employer should delay returning to the office as a result of Omicron.
“The recent Supreme Court ruling on the Biden administration mandate gives employers a little more clarity,” said Sydney Heimbrock, Qualtrics Chief Industry Advisory for Government. “Employers are increasingly playing a critical role in the mental and emotional well-being of their workforce and their communities. No leader can control an unpredictable pandemic, but they can control fostering an environment of empathy and understanding in the workplace.”