Updated: Aug 11, 2021
Despite some calls for the elimination of vaccine requirements for societal reopening, companies overwhelmingly recognize the importance of monitoring Covid-19 vaccination status to maintain workplace safety. In a timely report entitled "Back to the Workplace -Are we there yet?" employers from the US and UK were asked multiple questions on how they monitored different aspects of employee status during the COVID-19 pandemic. The report focused the questions on different types of pandemic workplace practices including testing and contact tracing, vaccination, employee wellbeing, pandemic response and preparedness, financial impact, and the future of work.
The study was performed by the ASU COVID-19 Workplace Commons with collaboration from the Rockefeller University and the World Economic Forum. It was performed in March 2021 and represented predominantly medium and large employers scattered across different geographic regions in 24 diverse industries such as technology, manufacturing, healthcare, education, and education. Overall, the survey yielded 1339 valid responses from 1168 companies. The breadth and thoroughness of the study notably validated the quality of its results.
The most valuable questions focused on the role vaccination would play on the safety of employees. Approximately 40% of employers stated they would require vaccinations from all their employees. An additional 16% of employers revealed that they mandated Covid-19 vaccinations from at least some of their employees. Of the remaining 44% of companies that did not require at least some employees to be vaccinated, nearly 75% of the other companies encouraged vaccination from their employees but did not require the practice.
These important findings signify that the vast majority of companies mandate or encourage their employees to become vaccinated for Covid-19 during the second year of the pandemic. Interestingly, 81% of employers felt that they would only return their workforce onsite when all or a majority of their employees were vaccinated. Of the remainder, 8% did not have a vaccine policy in place at the time of the survey and 4% do not plan on requiring or encouraging vaccination.
Employers also felt that higher vaccination rates could have other worker benefits. The ASU survey also revealed that the mental health of workers was affected by the pandemic. Employers also shared that workers were concerned about returning to the workplace and that health and safety were the major worker concerns.
Other valuable insights from the study surrounded how workforces were going to be managed in the next year of the pandemic. On this question 68% of employers felt that their employees should be in the office at least 20 hours per week but intended to allow their employees to work from home at least partially through 2021. On a related topic, 27% of employers intended to downsize the in-person workforce due to the pandemic, while 41% planned to have a hybrid situation from home and office.
The conclusions from this study are multifold. Overall, companies understand the importance of keeping employees safe in the workplace and feel a higher penetrance of vaccination is the best solution for this ambition. Companies that do not mandate vaccination still generally encourage vaccination for their employees. A high degree of vaccination rates was thought to provide safer reopening of workplaces that appealed to the sensibility of employers and workers alike. Monitoring vaccination penetrance and employee mental health will lead to other benefits in efficiency and productivity while enhancing workplace safety.