Nearly one-quarter of the U.S. population has had a minimum of one COVID-19 vaccine dose and more than 44 million adults are fully vaccinated, according to the CDC. While some companies have made long-term commitments to remote work, other companies are starting to bring employees back to the office amid an ongoing pandemic.
On Friday, the staffing company LaSalle Network published a release regarding the first installment of its Office Re-Entry Index. The index details obstacles related to bringing employees back on site, sentiments regarding vaccination mandates, potential internal conflict due to workplace policies and more.
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“Nothing should be a surprise to employees,” said Tom Gimbel, founder and CEO of LaSalle Network. “Communication from leadership on any and all re-entry status updates should be communicated to staff regularly, even if the update is there are no updates. Employees want transparency now more than ever because it is directly tied to their health, safety and mental wellbeing.”
Return to work and hybrid work
Overall the index is based on responses submitted by more than 350 CEOs, COOs and leaders in finance and human resources. The majority of respondents said they plan to bring employees back to the traditional office by the fall of this year and nearly three-quarters of respondents (70%) stated plans to “phase employees back in,” according to the report. Based on “information currently available,” nearly eight in 10 respondents (77%) said their workforce will feature a hybrid work model in 12 months, offering both in-person and remote work.
COVID-19 employee vaccine mandates
Employers can mandate vaccinations for their employees such as seasonal inoculations against the influenza virus. To mitigate the spread of the coronavirus pandemic in-house, will employers begin to mandate COVID-19 vaccinations for their workforces?
About half of respondents (52%) said they were not planning to mandate vaccination for their employees and more than one-third (39%) were undecided about requiring “employees to get vaccinated before returning to the office,” and (66%) said that their organization had “not yet communicated plans with employees” about their stance on a vaccine mandate, according to the report.
The vast majority of respondents (84%) at companies requiring vaccination, said they were met with “no resistance” when this mandate was communicated to the workforce, and employees “agreed with leadership,” the release said.
For companies that have already started to bring employees back to the traditional office, respondents said the top obstacle for this reentry has been “managing employees’ fears surrounding commuting to work.”
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For companies that have not yet started to bring employees back to the office, the majority said the top obstacle they predicted encountering was “managing” fears surrounding commuting, and other anticipated concerns included “cultural re-onboarding of staff” such as “helping employees reacclimate to the office environment,” according to the report.
About one-third of respondents (34%) who had not yet started to bring employees back to the office anticipated “conflicts to arise” between the staff and company executives related to “return-to-work policies” with the top predicted conflict being employees wanting to continue to telecommute.
“With frequent communication and updates, it helps lower anxiety levels and gives employees ample time to ask questions and mentally prepare,” Gimbel said.
“Employees need time to reacclimate, regardless of how long they’ve been with the organization,” Gimbel continued. “Good communication between employees and leaders will be key to smoothly returning to the office.”