Report: American workers don't expect things to return to normal, even if a COVID-19 vaccine is produced

As the coronavirus continues to spread across the US, workers are not confident that a return to work is safe or possible, and 81% expect disruptions, even after a vaccine might be available, according to a new survey.

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Image: Anna Ostanina, Getty Images/iStockPhoto

As the spread of the coronavirus pandemic continues across the US, with a resurgence of new infections and a total of more than 4.5 million cases to date, people and business owners are holding out hope for a vaccine that could help contain the spread of COVID-19 and bring life back to normal. But Gartner has found that even after the crisis abates, remote work could be here to stay––which may not be a bad thing, considering that two-thirds of workers feel more productive working remotely than in the office. And according to a new study from Unity Band, even the introduction of a vaccine may not convince Americans that work life can return to what it was like pre-pandemic.

SEE: Coronavirus: Critical IT policies and tools every business needs (TechRepublic Premium)

The new survey gauges the opinions of 1,000 people across America, covering the gamut of geographic and socioeconomic situations, to find how people feel about the way their lives have changed––and may stay changed––as a result of the coronavirus.  

As America continues to move in the reverse direction, in terms of new cases many workers are now experiencing apathy, after an initial period of frustration and anger. A mere 19% believe that the introduction of a vaccine will end the major disruptions caused by the virus, and most see the situation as remaining uncontrolled through 2021.

Here are some interesting results from the survey, conducted by the wearable company aimed at helping users track and manage their COVID-19 risk:

  • Severity: Women and men have different expectations around COVID-19. Women predict worse symptoms from the coronavirus than men and believe they will be bedridden, or worse, at 61%  and 51%, respectively. 
  • Transmission: Most people are more worried about transmitting the virus to others than about getting it themselves.
  • Travel: Attitudes around travel remain cautious: Without a vaccine, only 17% of Americans would take a cruise, and 58% say they won't go on a vacation at all.
  • Finance: One in 5 Americans predict they will be bankrupt if the current climate continues for the next six months to a year.
  • Work: More than half of employees would consider returning to work, given the environment feels safe: Men are more likely than women to consider this (33% to 25%). 

"When I look at this survey, I see a collection of Americans that are looking for ways to create a new normal for themselves––one that illuminates social acceptance and instant gratification for those looking to start new routines as they navigate the world," said Sunny Kapoor, COO and co-founder at Unity Band.  

SEE: Life after lockdown: Your office job will never be the same--here's what to expect (cover story PDF) (TechRepublic)

As we continue to adjust to a radically altered situation at work and at home, the survey shows that the current outlook remains uncertain, and workers are skeptical that the situation will change in the near future. 

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By Hope Reese

Hope Reese is a writer based in Louisville, Kentucky, currently living in Budapest. Her work has appeared in the Atlantic, the Boston Globe, Vox, Vice and other publications.