Employee Experience

New research: A majority of employees support vaccine mandates for businesses and in the workplace

How do employees feel about mandatory vaccinations and how can organizations address the new federal mandate while addressing the concerns and requirements of employees? In this article, we share our research as well as some best practices for large organizations looking to support their employees.

This blog was first published in March 2021 and has been updated in September 2021 to include new information, including the new federal vaccine mandates for large businesses and healthcare workers.

In early 2020, the pandemic upended life as we knew it. Many were left wondering what impact the sudden shift would have on the future of experience. Employee experience was bound to look different, as millions of workers went remote for the first time, while customer experience was tailored to mandatory safety protocols. 

A year later, businesses and organizations have another change for which they must prepare: vaccines. Many wonder whether they should require employees to be vaccinated before coming into the office — essentially establishing a vaccine mandate. Others speculate on the effect that would have on customers. 

In March, we asked more than 1,000 individuals across the United States about their attitudes toward vaccine mandates and how comfortable they feel returning to everyday activities. 

While two out of three workers say they would support a vaccine mandate, only a quarter believe their employers will make that happen. Half of employees say they’re likely to wait until they’re vaccinated before returning to work in-person, while even more say the same about flying on an airplane. 

As employees return to work and customers venture out of their homes, employers and business leaders will need to listen to feedback from their own people to drive their return-to-work and back-to-business strategies.  

Employees support vaccine mandates 

As employers look to bring people back to work in-person or on a hybrid schedule, many question whether they should require workers to get vaccinated before doing so. Turns out, most employees are supportive of the idea — though some others would consider leaving their jobs if their employers mandated vaccines. 

  • 66% of employees say they would support their current employers if they require all workers to be vaccinated before returning to work in-person
  • 57% of employees say their employers do not or will not require vaccines before coming back to work in-person
  • 45% of employees say they’d want to wait to be vaccinated before going back into the office
  • 71% of men say they would support a vaccine mandate vs. 61% of women

Different demographics have distinctive opinions on vaccine mandates, however: 

  • Financial and tech industries are more likely to support vaccine mandates: More than 80% of workers in the financial industry and more than 80%  of workers in the tech industry support mandated vaccines — a far cry from other industries like education (64%) and healthcare (61%)
  • Politics make a big difference: 84% of those who identify as Democrats say they support mandated vaccines. Only 50% of Republicans say the same — though they’re more likely to be neutral about it than Democrats
  • Remote employees prefer vaccine mandates: 73% of employees who switched to remote work at some point because of the pandemic support mandated vaccines, while only 55% of those who did not switch to remote work support required vaccination

There’s a caveat, though: Almost 1 in 5 employees (19%) would strongly consider leaving their place of employment if their employers mandated vaccines. A deeper dive reveals:  

  • Older employees are more likely to stay, no matter what: Whether or not their employer mandates vaccines, those over 50 are more likely to say they would not consider leaving their jobs in either scenario. Those under 35 are much less likely to say the same
  • Tech workers more likely to consider leaving if vaccines aren’t mandated: Tech workers are much more likely to strongly consider leaving their jobs if vaccines are not required: 26% say they would strongly consider leaving, and another 26% say they would somewhat consider leaving

Most employees feel safe going back to work — even without a vaccine mandate  

Even though a majority of employees support vaccine mandates, most of them feel safe going back to work without one. And a few simple safety policies are likely to make everyone feel even safer. 

Fifty-seven percent of employees say they would feel safe going back to work, even if their employer doesn’t require vaccines, though about a quarter of employees (24%) say they would feel unsafe returning to work without a vaccine mandate. 

  • Age doesn’t make a difference: A majority of all age groups say they feel safe going back to work without a vaccine mandate 
  • Remote workers are less likely to feel safe: Only 51% of those who switched to remote work at some point because of the pandemic say they feel safe going back to work without a vaccine mandate, while 65% of non-remote workers say the same

When asked what safety measures have to be in place for employees to feel safe, the top two (by a long shot) were requiring employees to wear masks (66%) and social distancing (61%). 

Is it good for business to require employees to be vaccinated?

Some businesses that cater to customers on-site wonder whether requiring their employees to be vaccinated will be good for business. Unsurprisingly, a majority of respondents also support businesses that mandate vaccines, and some even say they may be more likely to give their business to those that do. 

  • 63% of respondents say they would support businesses at which they shop if they require their in-person employees to be vaccinated
  • 53% of respondents say they are more likely to shop at a business that requires their employees to be vaccinated

How will vaccine mandates affect industries like travel and education?

The European Union recently unveiled vaccine passports — digital or paper documents that allow travelers to prove that they’ve been vaccinated, recovered from the vaccine, or tested negative. Sixty-six percent of respondents say they support implementing vaccine passports in the U.S. as they have in Europe. 

Additionally, 65% of respondents say they support requiring travelers to show proof of vaccination before participating in flying on a plane. This number has increased in the last three months, when 54% of respondents said the same thing in December 2020.

Even though many safety measures have been put into place in the airline industry, 61% of respondents still say they are likely to wait until they are vaccinated before flying on an airplane. 

Here’s how other industries shake out:

Education: 

  • 51% say they support requiring children K-12 to show proof of vaccination before going to school in-person
  • 55% say they support requiring students to show proof of vaccination before attending classes or living on campus at an institution of higher education
  • 52% say they will wait until they are vaccinated before attending classes or living on campus at an institution of higher education

Large events:

  • 58% say they support requiring people to show proof of vaccination before attending large, public events—this number has increased from 45% in December 2020
  • 60% say they will wait until they are vaccinated before attending large, public events 

Hotels: 

  • 57% say they support requiring people to show proof of vaccination before staying in a hotel
  • 55% say they will wait until they are vaccinated to stay in a hotel

Restaurants:

  • 47% say they support requiring people to show proof of vaccination before eating at a restaurant
  • 55% say they will wait until they are vaccinated before eating at a restaurant

As organizations shift out of the global pandemic and into the new normal, brands around the world use Qualtrics to identify what people need and what actions they can take to improve the everyday experiences of customers and employees. During the global pandemic, Qualtrics responded to the changing needs of its customers by introducing new Return to Work and Back to Business solutions that help companies quickly pivot their strategies by identifying and fixing experience gaps across their organizations.

Learn more about Qualtrics’ Return to Work and Back to Business solutions.


Learn more about the Qualtrics Vaccination & Testing Manager

Methodological approach:

This study was sponsored and conducted by Qualtrics and was fielded between March 19 and March 22, 2021. Respondents were considered eligible if they live in the United States, are at least 21 years of age, and are employed full- or part-time. The total number of respondents was 1,003. Respondents who did not pass quality standards were removed.

Liesl Nielsen // Public Relations Analyst

Liesl is a public relations analyst for Qualtrics, working to tell stories about data, as well as customer and employee success. She is an avid writer and recovering journalist.

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