Dominating the news cycle and Zoom meeting conversations is, of course, COVID-19. Questions such as what a “new normal” will look like and when work-from-home employees will return to the office abound.
But even as answers to those questions take form—vaccine rollouts are well underway, driving the conversation forward—many new questions are taking their place. For those in Human Resources, one of the most critical questions they are facing is whether they will require a vaccine for in-office employees—and how those employees feel about it.
Of course, answers to that question vary widely. Many are hesitant to receive a vaccination for a number of reasons, from the short window of lab-testing time to a mistrust of vaccines in general. Generational gaps, too, shed light on who will and won’t get the vaccine at the outset.
But even the initial holdouts might be persuaded in time. To explore perceptions of COVID-19 vaccines, Sykes Enterprises, Incorporated, conducted a survey exploring Americans’ perceptions of COVID-19 vaccines and mandates. For businesses considering a workplace vaccine mandate, it should assure some that many are open to the idea.
Most Will Get a Vaccine, While Others May Be Persuaded
First, some background. SYKES asked 2,000 U.S. adults whether they plan on getting vaccinated against COVID-19 as soon as a vaccine is available: 63.35% replied yes, while the other 36.65% said no. Broken down demographically, the responses were even more disparate. For example, while nearly 73% of men said they would get a vaccine, only 50% of women said the same.
However, of those who replied “no” to question one, nearly 80% said certain factors may convince them otherwise in time, such as if they knew people who received the vaccine without issue, if it is free or very affordable, if it is required for international travel, or if their employer requires it.
54% Believe Employers Should Require Nonremote Employees to Be Vaccinated
For some, a vaccine is a no-brainer—even one without years of data to prove its effectiveness. For others, the thought of a new vaccine raises a few questions. Either way, the collective understanding is that the workplace should be safe. And for 54% of Americans, safety means required COVID-19 vaccines.
Despite the 46% of respondents who disagree, history shows that employers that require vaccines are likely to have strong turnout from their employees. Take, for example, flu shots. According to a 2018 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report, 94.8% of healthcare personnel who were required to get a flu shot complied as opposed to only 47.6% of those who didn’t have a mandate.
Granted, vaccines for COVID-19 are generally considered with far greater weight, both for and against, and it is far from guaranteed that businesses will see the same sort of turnout as they do from flu shot mandates. Still, more than half of respondents hope their employers require a vaccine against COVID-19, and many more may come around to it.
20% of Initial Vaccine Holdouts Say They’ll Get a Vaccine if Their Employer Requires It
To that point, our study shows that 20% of those who said they would not receive a vaccine at the outset eventually will if their employer requires it. These data should encourage businesses considering a companywide vaccine mandate—and HR shouldn’t feel torn about enforcing it.
Still, companies that remain conflicted by a vaccine mandate may want to take a look at their employees’ demographics. While workers 18–44 said they would receive a vaccination at their employer’s behest at around a 23% tick, that number drops drastically for workers 45–54 (18.70%) and even more so for workers 55+ (only 10.99%).
Additionally, men (25%) appear to be far more willing to comply with an employer vaccine mandate than women (18%), while workers in the Northeastern United States are more amenable (28%) than workers in the South (15.49%).
In choosing whether to require vaccines, as well as preparing for potential pushback, companies can rest assured that a large number of employees are likely to comply. And even more reassuring, most employees will voluntarily get the vaccine anyway—particularly younger demographics.
69% of Respondents Aged 18–24 Plan to Get Vaccinated—More Than Any Other Age Group
For companies employing a high number of younger people, the choice to require vaccines or not might be a bit easier. Not only were Gen Z respondents more willing to be vaccinated if mandated than other age groups, but they are also more likely to do it voluntarily.
Requiring a vaccine at work will always be a concern to some—global health crisis or not. During a time of deep national division surrounding this particular virus, that concern has been amplified and is likely to remain for months—if not years—to come.
If the “new normal” includes returning to the office, companies must make sure employee safety is priority one. The decision on whether to require vaccines may be challenging, given the many and wide-ranging opinions, but if the new normal is to get here sooner than later, it will require a concerted effort to leverage vaccines to mitigate risks when employees transition back to their desks.
View the full results of the SYKES survey report here.
A.J. Hanna, Vice President Client Advocacy at SYKES, has more than 25 years of operations experience in the healthcare space, including working for one of the United States’s biggest health insurers and hospital systems, where he led data-centric and technology-enabled operations initiatives that improved customer satisfaction and reduced operation costs. As a leading voice in intelligent automation, he has spearheaded client experience efforts that offer enterprises practical advice for developing successful digital transformation programs. A participant of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) initiative, Hanna has worked with multiple organizations to create automation standards and help define automation industry terminology. He continues to connect with clients to help them avoid typical pitfalls and fast-track success. Connect with Hanna on LinkedIn.