A Workplace Divided: Employees Split Over COVID-19 Vaccine

Over 60% surveyed are fearful of the COVID-19 vaccine and 40% note they would consider leaving their organization if it required inoculation, raising issues for organizations navigating how to safely return to the office.

As the world nears 10 months of quarantine and other COVID-19 restrictions, organizations grapple with deciding if and when it will be safe for their employees to return to the workplace. As vaccines are rolled out, organizations must tread a fine line with employees due to a significant divide in perceptions around the vaccine, according to new data from Perceptyx about the role of the COVID-19 vaccine in return-to-work scenarios.

COVID-19 Vaccine“While there is no doubt COVID-19 vaccines are a welcome advancement in our fight against the pandemic, based on our data, they are neither the sole nor primary factor to employees feeling safe heading back to the office,” said Dr. Brett Wells, Director of People Analytics at Perceptyx.

Over 1,000 U.S. employees were asked to select the top three mitigation efforts that would help them feel safer in the physical workplace. Mask wearing, social distancing, and frequent cleaning topped the list, with employees being required to be vaccinated ranked fourth.

For organizations hoping to get their employees back to the office in the new year, requiring they get vaccinated may not be the best option. Nearly half (47%) of those surveyed believe employers should require this of their employees, while 43 percent note they would consider leaving their organization if the vaccine was a requirement. Employees are, however, slightly more likely to get vaccinated if their employer encourages them to do so, versus making it a requisite before returning to the office. Whereas 53 percent of employees are likely to get a vaccine if available today, 56 percent would get the vaccine if encouraged to do so by their employer. An even higher number – 60 percent – would take it if their employers offered a monetary incentive of $100 to do so.

Employees who are most likely to follow through on their organization’s recommendation to get vaccinated are those who have stronger relationships with their managers, who believe their symptoms would be severe if contracted COVID-19, and those who have already been tested for COVID-19.COVID-19 Vaccine

“Those who feel sincerely cared about by their managers are more likely to trust and be persuaded by their employer’s encouragement to get vaccinated,” continued Dr. Wells. “This is just one more reason why great leadership and investing in the individual and unique needs of employees is critical to an organization’s success.”

When asked specifically if they agreed with a number of statements, it is clear that employees have split sentiments about the vaccine. Key findings include:

  • 60 percent of respondents are fearful of the potential side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine, however over 67 percent believe the research and development of the vaccine is trustworthy.
  • Half (50%) say their employers have encouraged them to get the COVID-19 vaccine when available, while 38 percent say their organizations are requiring it in order to return to the physical workplace.
  • Just over half (54%) would feel safe returning to the office if they were vaccinated, even if others weren’t, while another 64 percent believe there is no safe return to work until all employees are vaccinated.
  • Those who are working remotely are more likely to believe there is no safe return without a vaccine – 68% versus 58% of essential workers who continue to work in the physical workplace.
  • Just over half (52%) say they would get the COVID-19 vaccine so they wouldn’t have to wear a mask at work, however the CDC still recommends mask wearing even after the two doses of the vaccine.

“There are clearly mixed feelings about the vaccine and when employees will feel safe returning to work, and much of this is based on the individual beliefs and specific situations that vary greatly,” said Dr. Wells. “It is imperative that, given this inconsistency in level of comfort, employers truly understand the needs of their employees and ensure they feel safe and confident before requiring them to return to work.”

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