Majority of Americans would feel uncomfortable returning to work now

Faith solid with medical and scientific experts: 63% of Americans polled by Qualtrics want the CDC to officially give the "all clear."

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They carry signs, protest loudly, and garner attention to "open the country." Because they do get TV time, people may not realize what a small faction they represent. The majority of Americans decidedly do not want the US  to return to the status quo ASAP, according to a new survey from Qualtrics. Workers of all ages, from boomers to Gen Z, are equally uncomfortable (67%) going back to work now, and 63% said they'd only be confident it's safe to return to work, if the Center for Disease Control issues an "all clear," the poll found.

"The trouble is everyone has been relying on the same operational data—infection rate, hospitalization rate, testing per capita—to make their decisions, but they have no experience data to tell them how people feel," said Ryan Smith, co- founder and CEO, Qualtrics, in a press release.

"If companies open their offices again, will anyone return to work? If businesses open their doors again, will customers be comfortable showing up again? These new solutions help organizations know what people need in order to feel confident returning to work, shopping, eating out, etc. It's not enough to reopen. We have to do it in the right way, and that means understanding how people feel and what we can do to instill confidence that we can reopen and maintain health and safety."

The poll conducted April 27 to 28 by the SAP company Qualtrics revealed employees want their work facility thoroughly cleaned and disinfected regularly (74%), don't want to go back to work yet (67%), and are counting on the CDC's OK (63%). 

Half of the respondents would like their state and officials to be on the same page as the CDC, and respond publicly to the state's full support of the CDC's opinion. 

The Qualtrics poll of 2,003 people asked the still-sheltering American public if they're ready "for things to open up."

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Americans are not quite in agreement when to expect to return to their workplace, 25% of respondents expect to return to their workplace in May, and 28% more expect to by the end of June, while nearly half (48%) think they won't go back until August or later.

Business people masks

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Comfort zone

The majority (66%) were uncomfortable returning to work right now, less than a quarter (24%) of respondents are comfortable returning to work right now, and 10% were neutral.

They also want safety policies established at work:

  • 74% expect their work facilities thoroughly cleaned and disinfected regularly
  • 70% want hand sanitizer and cleaning supplies available at all times and throughout the office
  • 62% want strict policies that anyone sick or return from travel cannot come into the office

  • 63% expect their company officials to consult with state and local authorities before they return to work

  • 57% want the company to provide or require masks to those who want one

  • 47% want employees to be required to wear masks

  • 45% ask for a "no handshakes/no hugs" policy

  • 38% want coworkers who travel, be it work or pleasure be required to self-quarantine for 14 days after they return to the US

Keep options open

Returnees to work want the option to wear a mask (64%), maintain social distancing at work with six feet or more between them and their coworkers (61%); have more flexible sick leave policies—and be encouraged to use days—even if they have only minor symptoms (50%); freedom to attend meetings to lessen the exposure to more people (49%), and have temperatures taken regularly to everyone entering the facility (43%).

Some respondents said the following should be implemented for them to be comfortable returning to the workplace:

  • Maintain social distance 38.9%

  • Company leaders to deem it save 26.8%

  • Sanitary and safe transit options 21.6%

  • Schools and childcare facilities open up 20.4%

Political ties

Republicans were two times as likely as Democrats to say they were comfortable with returning to their workplace, but only 33% of Republicans feel comfortable about returning to work.

With the elections around the corner, 60% of all polled would be uncomfortable voting in-person at a polling location.

Mask money vote

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Many (68%) people say—to the suggestion that everything opens up soon—they still feel uncomfortable eating at a restaurant, and 50% are uncomfortable about shopping retail in person. A little less than half stated they would only feel comfortable going back to the workplace until an effective treatment or vaccine is finalized and approved.

And the pandemic and the unprecedented shutdown of all but essentials has seriously impacted the US, as 48% of respondents agree that no, they will never be the same, and 52% believing we'll all get back to where we left off.

A significant percentage do not want to return to events and activities, even if they are fans and were regular attendees. 

Just say "no thanks" 

The respondents were asked what they'd need to be comfortable attending a concert, sporting event, or conference right now: 39% want established and enforced social distancing, 36% want mandatory mask requirements, 33% want assigned seating with attendees kept at a safe distance, and 29% want temperature checks done on everyone attending the event.

They're pretty uncomfortable, and not confident about life returning to "the normal,"  as it was before the implementation of the March shelter-in place. 

So, just how uncomfortable are they? 

Enough that Americans say they don't want to or are too uncomfortable to:

  • Attend a live sporting event 79%

  • Attend a live concert 78%

  • Riding public transportation 77%

  • Go on a flight 75%

  • Go to the gym 71%

  • Eat at a restaurant  68%

  • Play team sports (e.g. basketball) 68%

  • Attend an in-person training or conference 66% 

  • Stay in a hotel or motel 62% 

  • Attend religious service 60%

  • Go to a retail store (non-grocery) 51% 

  • Go to a grocery 38%

Socializing

Further, 25% of those who regularly attend sporting events said they're unlikely to attend in the foreseeable future, and 38% of people said they would not be comfortable going to a live concert until at least January 2021. Also, 68% are uncomfortable playing a team sport, and 60% would feel uncomfortable attending an in-person religious service.

Infringing upon the comfort zone

Respondents were divided nearly equally by region, employment status and gender. The following were represented: 

Respondents by region:

●  South — 30%

●  Northeast — 28%

●  West —22%

●  Midwest — 20%

Respondents by employment status:

●  Working Full time: 69%
●   Working part time: 17%
●  Not working, laid-off or furloughed: 10%
●  Self employed: 2%
●  Not working, other: 2%

Respondents by gender:
● Female: 60% 
● Male: 40%

Smith said, "As we continue the fight against COVID-19, every government and business leader I talk to is trying to understand two things: How to keep their people safe and healthy and what information they can turn to as they look to reopen their workplaces and businesses."

Also see 

Back To Work Reminder

Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto