As the COVID-19 vaccine continues to be rolled out across the U.S., there is still a lot of uncertainty among employees about whether to get the shots or not.
According to a survey released Feb. 8 by The Conference Board, there is a division based on job titles. Lower-level workers are less willing to receive the vaccine than senior leadership.
Another issue that could be affecting acceptance of the vaccine is that nearly half of companies have yet to communicate a policy on getting the vaccine. Furthermore, even those companies that are encouraging workers to receive the vaccine are not mandating it as a condition of returning to the office.
“Nearly a year into the pandemic, workers are still faced with an abundance of uncertainty,” said Rebecca Ray, Ph.D., executive vice president of human capital at The Conference Board in a statement. "Many workers—especially lower-ranking staff and women—feel unsure about the vaccine and have discomfort returning to the workplace. These findings reinforce the need for companies to limit as much uncertainty as possible by communicating what they know and what their expectations are about returning to the workplace as well as guidelines about the vaccine to employees.”
Key findings include:
One-fifth of US workers (19%) are undecided about whether to be vaccinated.
- Three-quarters plan to get an FDA-approved vaccine when available.
- Only 6% do not plan to get the vaccine.
Indecision over taking the vaccine increases as worker rank decreases.
- Individual contributors: Only 67% of these lower-ranking workers plan to take the vaccine.
- CEOs: 85% of those at the top, however, plan to take it.
“Indecision about the vaccine may be driven by a distrust of the healthcare system, government agencies, or the efficacy of the vaccine itself,” said Amy Lui Abel, Ph.D., vice president of human capital research at The Conference Board in a statement. “In many states, the vaccination registration process can be complicated. Many companies, on the other hand, have the trust of their staff; they may consider sharing facts and dispelling myths about the vaccine or enabling government plans to immunize their workers.”
Gender gap: Women are more undecided about taking the vaccine than men.
- More men (80%) are planning to take the vaccine than women (73%).
In addition to being more willing to take the vaccine, men are also more comfortable returning to the office at nearly two times the rate of women.
- Men: 32% of men are very comfortable returning to the office.
- Women: Only 17% of women feel very comfortable returning.
“Given that caretaking responsibilities still disproportionately fall to women, the gender disparity in comfort returning to the workplace is understandable,” Ray said. “Insufficient childcare, a fear of exposing their families to COVID-19 or the impact of contracting the disease themselves may very well be driving this concern.”
Nearly half of respondents say their company has yet to communicate a vaccination policy.
- One-third of companies strongly encourage getting the vaccine as a condition of returning to the workplace but are not mandating it.
- Only 1% require a vaccine for all workers.
Uncertainty about how workers will return to the office has increased.
- Nearly a full year into the pandemic, plans for returning to the office or worksite remain unknown to 44% of respondents. That is up from 37% in the September survey.
Twenty-eight percent expect their company to reopen in 7 to 12 months.
- Within 6 months, April to June 2021: 21%
- Unsure/Do not know: 8%
Lower-ranking employees are less comfortable than senior leaders about returning.
- Individual contributors: Only 14% are very comfortable returning to the workplace.
- CEOs: 44% are very comfortable, or even want to return, to the workplace.
“Given that higher-ranking staff likely have more control over their work environment and more input into office reopening plans, it is not surprising that they are more comfortable returning to the workplace,” Abel said. “Clear communication about reopening plans and the implementation of safety measures can help ease concerns."