Would a free Tesla encourage you to get the jab? Employers are pulling out all the stops to promote vaccination

Companies are offering enticing incentives like PTO, cold hard cash and more to boost COVID-19 vaccinations as workforces return to the traditional office. But is it working?

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More than one-third of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's COVID Data Tracker. However, vaccination rates have decreased in recent weeks as some people remain hesitant about inoculation or choose to not get the jab altogether.

As workforces return to the traditional office, companies are pulling out all of the stops to boost vaccinations, offering jab deal-sweeteners like extra PTO, cold hard cash and more. (One company is even holding a drawing for a new Tesla to boost in-house vaccination efforts.) But one question remains: Are vaccine incentives working?

SEE: COVID vaccination policy (TechRepublic Premium)

COVID-19 vaccine incentives

At the onset of the pandemic, organizations around the globe transitioned to remote work on short notice with varying degrees of success. While some companies have made long-term commitments to remote work others are bringing employees back to the office. West Monroe recently released the results of its quarterly executive poll detailing sentiments about remote work, vaccination incentives and more.

"From our poll, it's evident that executives are ready to get back to some sort of normalcy, and incentivizing employees to get vaccinated is a part of that plan: 71% of execs said they will incentivize their employees to get vaccinated," said Christina Galoozis, a spokesperson for West Monroe.

Education campaigns are the most popular vaccination incentive "by far," Galoozis said, explaining that more than one-third of executives (35%) polled reported they will use this incentive with options including a "resource hub on the organization's intranet" or "informational company-wide emails directly from the CEO."

About one-third of executives polled said they are offering employees paid time off to get vaccinated, nearly one-quarter are helping employees receive vaccine appointments and 19% are either administering or providing employees with the vaccine, according to the poll. Interestingly, 29% of respondents said they were not incentivizing the vaccine among their employees.

Previous West Monroe polls also found an even split among executives and their sentiments toward requiring vaccinations as part of their office reentry plans. Galoozis explained that 51% of respondents were "leaning toward" on-site vaccination requirements for employees and 49% "leaning toward" no on-site vaccine requirement in the company's first-quarter poll.

Over the last year, COVID-19 has claimed the lives of millions worldwide, and the virus continues to take its toll on communities around the globe. Branka Vuleta, founder of LegalJobs.io, said the company had lost employees due to the coronavirus pandemic and other members of its workforce have lost loved ones and relatives.

"Because of that, preserving the health of our employees is a top priority," Vuleta said.

The company created a program focused on getting as "as many employees vaccinated as possible," Vuleta said, noting inoculation incentives such as two paid days off, transportation to and from vaccination sites as well as other delivery perks.

"We knew that most people feel sick or dizzy after getting the shot, so we wanted everyone to recover fully before coming back to work. We then sent care packages and a special meal to everyone who got the vaccine, to make them feel extra comfy during that first day," Vuleta said.

Additionally, the company has a goal of at least half of its workforce being vaccinated by the end of June, Vuleta said, and if this inoculation threshold is reached or surpassed, all employees will receive a bonus which will double if all members of its workforce are vaccinated.

SEE: Wellness at work: How to support your team's mental health (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

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Barbados vacations and a free Tesla

The real estate company, CoStar Group, is offering a number of incentives to encourage employee turnout, including $10,000 cash prizes, a Barbados vacation via private plane, and "even a shiny new Tesla," according to a company spokesperson.

The company has hosted vaccination clinics to provide inoculation to employees, clients and family members, and has delivered more than 1,000 vaccinations so far, according to the CoStar Group spokesperson.

Ronen Yemini, the founder of the SaaS company Eyedo, said the company is providing $100 gift cards and additional paid PTO (two days) which is "mostly meant" to help employees recover from any negative vaccine side effects, "but if they don't get any [side effects] then they are welcome to use this PTO whenever they like."

"All of our employees are excited about these incentives, and it has boosted the number of employees that are wanting to get vaccines," Yemini said.

The debate about requiring vaccination for on-site employees has taken center stage as companies bring employees back to the traditional office. Dr. Jami Doucette, president of Premise Health, said companies have an "opportunity to play a crucial role in the vaccination process by encouraging and engaging employees around COVID-19 vaccines."

Doucette said Premise Health encourages "vaccine incentives to celebrate an employee's choice to get vaccinated" and touched on vaccination incentives offered by its clients such as vacation days.

"We've also seen many business leaders work with their internal communications and HR departments to educate and engage employees about the vaccine. By providing employees with helpful information, how the vaccine works, potential side effects, how it provides protection, and accessing it, these organizations play a vital role in helping defeat the virus," Doucette said.

Employer vaccine programs and misinformation

In recent months, misinformation has played a central role in the coronavirus pandemic; complicating public health efforts. At the onset, conspiracy theories related to 5G resulted in attacks on cell towers and botnets have disseminated misinformation across popular social media platforms.

Tom Winter, HR tech recruitment advisor and cofounder of DevSkiller, touched on the importance of employer-provided medical information.

"There is too much misinformation going on about the vaccine, it is totally normal that people feel fearful of getting vaccinated," Winter said. "But humans tend to trust authorities, so having a medical professional explain to them everything about the vaccine makes employees feel a bit more motivated to get the shot."

When it comes to reopening offices safely and rebuilding the economy, Stephen Massey, managing director of the Health Action Alliance, said that "businesses understand that one of the most important things they can do" is "encourage their employees to get vaccinated."

"Every business has a role to play by sharing vaccine facts, having trusted conversations and making it as easy as possible for workers to get vaccinated, either on-site or by offering paid time off for vaccination appointments and recovery," Massey said.

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