Despite having their workplaces turned upside down, a majority of U.S. workers give employers high marks for keeping them safe and supporting them during the two-year pandemic.
Still, employees are polarized when it comes to workplace mask and vaccine mandates. While most are supportive, opposition to pandemic mandates is high among some employees. That’s according to a new survey of more than 9,600 employees by WTW (Willis Towers Watson, NASDAQ: WTW), a leading global advisory, broking and solutions company.
Employers have been prioritizing safety measures during the pandemic to ensure their employees remain protected onsite as evidenced by the nearly three-quarters of employees (70%) who report feeling comfortable in the workplace. Two-thirds said their employers are keeping them productive (67%) and safe (66%) from COVID-19. More than half (58%) believe their employer has supported their wellbeing.
Nonetheless, employees differ on safety requirements for onsite workers. The majority of employees support employer vaccinate mandates (58% versus 22% opposed). Even more favor wearing a mask inside buildings (65% versus 15% opposed). More than half (54%) favor regular testing to enter the worksite versus 21% who oppose testing. Interestingly, only 11% of employees at companies with vaccine mandates oppose them, while 40% of employees at companies without mandates oppose them.
“The past two years have been challenging times for both employers and their employees,” said Jeff Levin-Scherz, M.D., Population Health leader, WTW. “Employers have made their employees’ health and wellbeing a top priority throughout the pandemic. As our survey results show, most employees embraced their employers’ actions to keep them safe at work and support them. And, those efforts are having a positive impact on employees.”
Indeed, a majority (84%) of employees who feel safe and are comfortable at work plan to stay with their employer for at least two years. Conversely, just 42% of employees who don’t feel safe or comfortable plan to stay on the job for the next two years. Additionally, over half of employees who feel safe and comfortable at work say they are highly engaged compared with just 5% who don’t feel safe or comfortable. And, despite vaccines being an effective tool to reduce severe illness and death, three in 10 employees say they are more likely to quit if their employer adopts a vaccine mandate.
The impact of long COVID-19
Although many people who have had COVID-19 can resume normal activity within weeks of contracting the illness, some individuals experience post-COVID-19 conditions known as long COVID-19 that may affect their ability to work. The survey found 37% of employees who had contracted COVID-19 are still having long-term effects. And among those, 71% are experiencing greater levels of depression or anxiety and many report higher absence rates and lower productivity compared with those who had COVID-19 and recovered, and those who have never had COVID-19.
“Long COVID-19 is a persistent and significant health issue,” said Dr. Levin-Scherz. “Employers can support employees suffering from post-COVID-19 symptoms by providing accommodations such as reduced hours, time off and job restructuring that can help minimize long COVID-19’s impact on absenteeism, productivity and mental health issues.”