Most employees no longer believe in a ‘return to normal’ for work
Nearly two years into the pandemic, millions across the U.S. are sick with the Omicron variant of COVID-19, which is once again disrupting plans to return to in-person work. Now, a majority (71%) of U.S. workers say they don’t think COVID is ever going away but will become a recurring illness like the flu. Meanwhile, a frustrated 39% of employees say they wish their employers would stop making policies based on a “return to normal” they believe will never come, according to new research from Qualtrics.
Since the Supreme Court has struck down a federal mandate that employees at large companies be vaccinated, the onus is on employers more than ever to decide how to ensure safety for employees, many of whom are eager for certainty in a long-term plan.
A ‘return to work’ may never materialize
Most employees think employers should embrace the idea that COVID is here to stay and make plans for the future of work accordingly.
- 71% of employees expect COVID to never go away, but will become like the flu with annual vaccines
- 39% of employees say with the rise in Omicron, companies should stop making policies for ‘return to work’ based on the idea that COVID will eventually go away
- 61% of employees no longer think there will be a “return to normal” when it comes to work
Omicron brings mixed reactions
As the Omicron variant, which is more contagious but less deadly than other COVID variants, sweeps the nation, some employees are practicing additional caution and some less.
- 48% of employees believe Omicron will only stick around a little while longer
- 43% of employees say they are less cautious with Omicron than other COVID variants
- 47% of employees say they are less comfortable working from the office with the rise in Omicron
- 52% of tech workers say they are less comfortable, compared to 48% of government workers and 33% of travel, food and hospitality workers, many of whom are likely already working in-person
- 35% of employees say their place of employment should delay their return to office date due to the rise of Omicron
With the Supreme Court decision to block federal vaccine mandates, some companies are moving forward with vaccine requirements and others are choosing to forego them. But employee sentiment on workplace vaccine rules is more divided than ever.
- 47% of employees would somewhat or strongly consider leaving their jobs if all employees were required to be fully vaccinated before returning to in-person work (This number is up from 44% in August and October)
- 22% of employees would strongly consider leaving
- By industry:
- Tech workers: 44% would consider leaving, including 21% who would strongly consider
- Government workers: 33% would consider leaving, including 17% who would strongly consider
- Travel, hospitality, food workers: 48% would consider leaving, including 24% who would strongly consider
- On the other hand, 46% of employees would somewhat or strongly consider leaving their jobs if all employees are NOT required to be fully vaccinated before returning to in-person work (This number is up from 38% in August and 40% in October)
- 16% of employees would strongly consider leaving
- By industry:
- Tech workers: 52% would consider leaving, including 22% who would strongly consider
- Government workers: 34% would consider leaving, including 11% who would strongly consider
- Travel, hospitality, food workers: 36% would consider leaving, including 9% who would strongly consider
What companies should do
Businesses that do enact vaccine requirements for employees will have to decide what counts as “fully vaccinated” and what to do about workers who refuse to get the vaccine.
- 48% of employees say they think booster shots should be required in order to be considered “fully vaccinated” (vs. 37% who do not agree)
- When asked, “What's the best way for companies to respond to those who refuse to get vaccinated?” the top answers were:
- Require them to be tested for COVID on a regular basis (28%)
- Do nothing (20%)
- Ask them to work remotely (20%)
- Require them to wear a mask and social distance (15%)
- Put them on unpaid leave (10%)
- Fire them (6%)
- For Tech workers, the #1 answer was “ask them to work remotely” (32% of tech workers chose this answer)
Travel plans interrupted
With the rise of Omicron, some travel may be on hold, but not all.
- 21% of employees have canceled work travel in the past few weeks due to the spike in Omicron
- 13% of individual contributors have canceled work travel, compared to 24% of managers
- 29% of employees have canceled personal travel plans in the past few weeks
- 55% of employees say Omicron has had no impact on their plans
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