A new Comparably study confirms media reports: Herd immunity is unlikely due to strong variants and persistent vaccine hesitancy, and employees feel strongly about being vaccinated at work.
The global pandemic set a gloomy pall around the world, upending work and life for more than a year. However, in just the last couple of months, a light emerged from the end of the dark tunnel: widespread availability of the Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines. CNN reports that 70% of seniors are now fully vaccinated.
A study from Comparably examines the root cause of why—despite free access to the vaccines—experts say we are unlikely to reach herd immunity. Even though variants of COVID-19 are emerging, herd immunity requires 75% to 85% vaccination of the U.S. population, and too many people are forgoing the opportunity. As more vaccines are released, numbers of those being vaccinated are now declining.
SEE: COVID vaccination policy (TechRepublic Premium)
Comparably surveyed more than 3,500 employees from Feb. 26 to March 26, 2021, "to take the temperature" of how people feel about the enforcement of a vaccination policy in the return to the office.
A big takeaway? Any semblance of the "old normal" will reveal a divided workforce. Comparably stated, "Any forced policy of a COVID vaccination before a return to the office will be met with some potentially serious pushback from those less concerned about catching and spreading the virus and seemingly more concerned about the potential ill effects of the vaccination itself. The divide can be seen across lines of ethnicity, age and region."
Technologists more likely to demand a vaccine policy
In most industries, notably tech, employees are satisfied with their company's transition to remote or hybrid. Most employees welcomed the flexibility it afforded their schedules, and many are now loath to give it up. The Comparably report wryly noted, "As long as that light at the end of the tunnel isn't another train, people seem to be solidifying their own ideas of what the 'new normal' is as the pandemic starts to break."
Tech pros are 5% more adamant about enforcing a vaccine policy than those in other industries. Across all industries, the larger the company, the more its employees want that policy in place.
The ethnic divide in work vaccine policies
While the divide between men (59%) and women (52%) is quite narrow, along ethnic lines opinions vary widely. Comparably found that Asian American/Pacific Islander American respondents (83%) were more than twice as likely to say a COVID-19 vaccine policy was necessary as African American/Black respondents (34%). Sixty-six percent of Hispanic/Latino respondents and 50% of Caucasians and "others" said a COVID-19 vaccine policy was necessary.
Age makes a difference in work vaccine policies
Age was also a dividing factor. "The younger the employee the more likely the respondent" was to want a vaccination policy: 66% of employees ages 26 to 30 said one should be in place before returning to the office, and only 40% of those 51 to 55 agreed.
Despite older adults being more vulnerable to the coronavirus and more likely to develop complications, the lowest amount of affirmative responses were from the 51 to 55 age group. Comparably said, "Results here may indeed be again of a political nature, with the split between older and younger workers indicative of the heightened tension between generations."
SEE: Wellness at work: How to support your team's mental health (free PDF) (TechRepublic)
The more educated, the more adamant about work vaccine policies
The more educated the respondent, the more likely the response that a COVID-19 vaccination policy was necessary, Comparably revealed. The report stated, "This is what one might expect to see, with those who have reached higher levels of education increasingly concerned about the practical necessity for a vaccine policy, and less-educated individuals seemingly less informed or concerned about contracting or spreading the virus."
When asked, "Should workplaces enforce a COVID-19 vaccine policy before employees can return to work?" 66% of those with a Master's degree level of education said "yes," but only 36% of those with "some college" chose "yes." Only 53% of those who have been with their company six to 10 years said "yes," but 62% of entry-level employees advocated for a vaccine policy.
How cities differed in work vaccine policies
Respondents in Boston, Seattle and San Francisco were nearly twice as likely to say a workplace COVID vaccine policy was necessary than respondents from Denver and southern cities, like Atlanta, Dallas and Houston.
Transition to remote or hybrid approval
Working remotely received a resoundingly positive response, with 80% of all workers "sold on the necessity of a more flexible, remote work schedule," Comparably said. It is most important to women (86% deemed it "utmost importance" as opposed to 75% of men), Gen Z and Gen X.
Four of five respondents responded positively to questions on how their company handled the initial transition to remote or hybrid environments, with 80/100 men and 80/100 women stating their approval.
Ethnically, responses were satisfied with their company's actions: 82% Asian American/Pacific Islander American, 81% Caucasian, 80% Other, 77% Hispanic/Latino and 72% African American/Black.
Employees who were 56- to 60-years-old were most enthusiastic about their company's handling of the transition (85/100), and those ages 18 to 25 gave an average rating of 72/100.
Results were based on 3,539 respondents who answered the following three survey questions:
- Should workplaces enforce a COVID vaccine policy before employees can return to the office?
- On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate your organization's transition to a remote or hybrid work culture?
- How important is it for you to have the flexibility of working remotely?
Comparably said respondents were from small, mid-size and large companies, VC-funded, privately held and public, to household brands like Amazon, Apple, Google, Facebook, Uber, etc.
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