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—Lower-ranking employees more uncertain about taking the vaccine—
—45% of companies have not communicated a vaccination policy—
—44% say plans to reopen the workplace are unknown—
—28% of respondents say 7 to 12 months for the workplace to reopen –-
—Men report comfort returning to the workplace at two times the rate of women—
As the US rolls out the COVID-19 vaccine, a survey of US workers finds that 1 in 5 employees are undecided about whether to take it.
The Conference Board survey reveals that employee rank accounts for much of this hesitation: lower-level workers are less willing to receive the vaccine than senior leadership. Moreover, the nationwide survey found that nearly half of companies have yet to communicate a policy on getting the vaccine. And of those organizations that have, most are encouraging workers to receive the vaccine but not mandating it as a condition of returning to the office.
“Nearly a year into the pandemic, workers are still faced with an abundance of uncertainty. Many workers—especially lower-ranking staff and women—feel unsure about the vaccine and have discomfort returning to the workplace,” said Rebecca Ray, PhD, Executive Vice President, Human Capital at The Conference Board. “These findings reinforce the need for companies to limit as much uncertainty as possible by communicating what they know and what their expectations are about returning to the workplace, as well as guidelines about the vaccine to employees.”
Conducted between January 13–26, the online survey covered two key topics: policies pertaining to the vaccine and reopening the workplace. More than 2,200 US workers participated, representing a cross-section of people across industries. It is a follow-up to similar surveys conducted in September and again in October.
Key findings include:
One-fifth of US workers—19 percent—are undecided about whether to get the vaccine.
- Three-quarters plan to take an FDA-approved vaccine when available.
- Only 6 percent do not plan to get the vaccine.
Indecision over taking the vaccine increases as worker rank decreases.
- Individual contributors: Only 67 percent of these lower-ranking workers plan to take the vaccine.
- CEOs: 85 percent of those at the top, however, plan to take it.
“Indecision about the vaccine may be driven by a distrust of the healthcare system, government agencies, or the efficacy of the vaccine itself. In many states, the vaccination registration process can be complicated,” said Amy Lui Abel, PhD, Vice President, Human Capital Research at The Conference Board. “Many companies, on the other hand, have the trust of their staff; they may consider sharing facts and dispelling myths about the vaccine, or enabling government plans to immunize their workers.”
Gender gap: Women are more undecided about taking the vaccine than men.
- More men (80 percent) are planning to take the vaccine than women (73 percent).
In addition to being more willing to take the vaccine, men are also more comfortable returning to the office at nearly two times the rate of women.
- Men: 32 percent of men are very comfortable returning to the office.
- Women: Only 17 percent of women feel very comfortable returning.
“Given that caretaking responsibilities still disproportionately fall to women, the gender disparity in comfort returning to the workplace is understandable,” said Rebecca Ray, PhD, Executive Vice President, Human Capital at The Conference Board. “Insufficient childcare, a fear of exposing their families to COVID-19, or the impact of contracting the disease themselves may very well be driving this concern.”
Nearly half of respondents say their company has yet to communicate a vaccination policy.
- One-third of companies strongly encourage getting the vaccine as a condition of returning to the workplace but are not mandating it.
- Only 1 percent require a vaccine for all workers.
Uncertainty about how workers will return to the office has increased.
- Nearly a full year into the pandemic, plans for returning to the office or worksite remain unknown to 44 percent of respondents. That is up from 37 percent in the September survey.
When will my company reopen? 28 percent expect to return in 7 to 12 months.
- Within 6 months, April to June 2021: 21 percent.
- Unsure/Do not know: 8 percent.
Lower-ranking employees are less comfortable than senior leaders about returning.
- Individual contributors: Only 14 percent are very comfortable returning to the workplace.
- CEOs: 44 percent are very comfortable, or even want to return, to the workplace.
“Given that higher-ranking staff likely have more control over their work environment and more input into office reopening plans, it is not surprising that they are more comfortable returning to the workplace,” said Amy Lui Abel, PhD, Vice President, Human Capital Research at The Conference Board. “Clear communication about reopening plans and the implementation of safety measures can help ease concerns.”
Employee discomfort with returning to work has declined with the vaccine rollout.
- Only 18 percent of respondents are uncomfortable returning to work, a sharp decline from the 31 percent in the September survey who reported discomfort with the prospect.
- More respondents describe themselves as very comfortable returning to work (22 percent) than are not comfortable doing so (18 percent). That is a reversal from September.
About The Conference Board
The Conference Board is the member-driven think tank that delivers trusted insights for what’s ahead. Founded in 1916, we are a non-partisan, not-for-profit entity holding 501 (c) (3) tax-exempt status in the United States. www.conference-board.org
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