66% of employees are worried about "health and safety" risks when returning to work

A new report from Envoy outlines workforce sentiments about office safety amid the coronavirus pandemic, employers mandating inoculation, hybrid work preferences and more.

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Image: iStock/blackslamon

More than one year after the first U.S. COVID-19 cases, many professionals continue to work remotely, however, some companies are bringing employees back to the traditional office as hundreds of thousands are vaccinated per diem. On Tuesday, Envoy released findings related to its Return to the Workplace Report detailing employee sentiments about returning to work amid the coronavirus pandemic, employers mandating inoculation, hybrid work preferences and more.

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"One of the more surprising findings from our survey is that nearly half of employees would likely leave their job if it didn't offer a hybrid work model post-pandemic. This sends an extremely important message to businesses that employees are expecting to see substantial changes in the office when they return," said Larry Gadea, Envoy founder and CEO. 

The Return to the Workplace Report is based on a survey conducted between Feb. 8 and Feb. 16 involving 1,000 employed U.S. adults. Overall, 66% of respondents said they were "worried about their health and safety" when returning to work with one-in-five saying they were "extremely worried," 21% were "not too worried" and 13% were not worried at all, according to the report.

Three-quarters of Gen Zers (defined as people under the age of 25) and 78% of people of color were worried that a "return to the workplace could compromise their health and safety," according to the report, and about six-in-10 respondents (61%) were concerned their employers would "relax COVID measures" prematurely.

To date, more than 37 million U.S. adults have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to the CDC. The majority of respondents (62%) said they thought companies should require employees to receive a COVID-19 vaccine before allowing them to work on-site and about three-quarters (76%) of technology and business sector employees felt inoculation should be mandatory for individuals who want to work in the office.

In the past, the ability to work remotely intermittently has been considered an employment perk. Post-pandemic individuals could seek positions based on the company's stance on hybrid work and even take pay cuts to telecommute some days, per the report.

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Overall, about half of respondents (48%) said they prefer hybrid work and this preference for this occupational arrangement increases to 59% among people of color, according to the report. Nearly half of respondents (47%) said they would "likely leave their" position if their employer didn't "offer a hybrid work model once the pandemic ends" and 41% said they would be willing to take a position "with a lower salary" if the company offered hybrid work, per the report.

"The data tells us that employees want the workplace to offer more value, flexibility, community, wellness and safety than before, especially for those who have been quite productive working from home. If companies don't address these new preferences created by the shift to remote work, they may risk losing their best employees," Gadea said.

The top reported hybrid work benefits were reduced commute time and related expenditures, increased work-life balance, and "improved work performance," per the report. In a hybrid work model, respondents said they would determine when to go to the traditional office based on which coworkers would be on-site on a given day and "what they need to get done for work."

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