Essential workers including; warehousing and distribution, grocery and healthcare to name a few, have been going to their respective workplaces throughout the pandemic. And, while COVID-19 vaccination efforts have picked up, some office workers remain apprehensive about returning to the office. Business leaders on the other hand, are also struggling to chart the new normal.
If your company is contemplating a return to the office here are 5 tips from Kate Bullinger and Emily Caruso’s article The Return-to-Work Paradox.
1. Consider the perspectives of your people through deep listening: While many leaders have strong preferences for getting people back into workplaces, the majority of employees do not feel the same way. After a year of alternative work arrangements, our research shows that 85% of employees currently working from home are satisfied with their job. Of those, 82% say that they would like to continue working from home rather than going to their place of work every day.
More than half of the people we surveyed would go further to request to continue working from home if vaccines aren’t mandated by their employer, with 4% considering leaving their job if they are forced to go back without a company policy that requires vaccination.
Therefore, actively listen to your people and ensure you are hearing from different populations via surveys, “ask me anything” sessions, and direct outreach.
2.Understand the key drivers of vaccine hesitancy to address them in an inclusive way: On the other end of the spectrum, there are many reasons why people are hesitant to get the vaccine. Understanding these reasons and how they vary among audiences is important for addressing them.
For example, many people question the safety and efficacy of the vaccines and are concerned about potential side effects. Some are responding to mixed messages from government leaders. And the history of exploitation and neglect that people of color and other minorities have experienced at the hands of the medical establishment cannot be ignored. By understanding the intersection of health and racial equity, you can ensure DE&I is embedded into employee vaccine communications.
3.Seek to meet people where they are, with the information they need:
Except for hardcore “nevers” (approximately 15% of the adult population), most skeptical or hesitant people are open to changing their mind. Accurate information from trusted sources is key to reaching this group. People seek leadership, science, and medical-based opinions.
More people are turning to friends and family when it comes to making their own health decisions, which highlights the importance of accurate, understandable and shareable information as part of grassroots communication efforts.
To reach employees with a clear and accurate message, create an employee engagement campaign to educate about the vaccine and promote vaccination. Equip managers — the No. 1 channel for reaching employees — with the information that they need to best support the campaign.
4.Explore alternative ways to promote vaccine adoption: Because of the tensions between those people who would feel more comfortable with a vaccine and those who are more reticent, leaders should focus on incentivizing versus mandating vaccination. While there is a precedent for requiring health screenings across sectors, particularly in those with large populations of front-line workers, requiring employees to get vaccinated, even with the overwhelming evidence about the efficacy of the vaccine, may be seen by some as an overstep of privacy or worse, backfire completely.
Some incentives include covering administration or transportation costs, providing time off or additional pay, and including vaccines in health resources already offered through employee assistance and/or or workplace wellness programs.
5.Evaluate what’s driving the need to return to workplaces: Pushing people back to work before they are ready, and before other social systems — like the reopening of schools — are in place could have a significant impact on morale, productivity, and even retention. Instead and when possible, companies are better off remaining flexible with their workplace policies. When not possible, employers should be clear about the criteria that went into the decision, which should at a minimum include observance of local and national public health guidance.
Bottomline: While some employees may be itching to get back to the buzz of a busy office environment and mingling with their co-workers, others may be worried about seeing and coming into contact with their colleagues. In the end, these concerns- and others, will likely shape the way business leaders plan to reopen.