The rollout of the vaccination programme is a key factor influencing whether or not workers feel confident returning to their workplaces, according to new research.
A survey of more than 2,000 employed adults carried out for insurer Aviva in March and April found that 71% felt optimistic about going back to work due to the success of the vaccination campaign, up significantly from a previous survey carried out just after November’s lockdown.
Only 50% of respondents were optimistic about going back to work in the survey carried out in the five days ending December 1, a week before the UK’s inoculation effort kicked off on December 8.
Chris Andrews, Director of Risk Management Solutions at Aviva, said: “The vaccine rollout has had an enormous benefit to employee confidence in returning safely to the workplace.”
However, separate research from Ezra suggested that the speed of the rollout alone is not enough to convince workers – they also want to know specifically how this translates to their own workplace.
Its survey of more than 1,000 office workers found that only 51% felt confident going back to work if either they or their colleagues weren’t required to have a vaccination.
In recent months there has been much debate about the legality of ‘no jab, no job’ policies and the result would seem to be that many employers are steering clear of such policies.
Ezra’s research found that 80% of respondents did not have to be vaccinated before returning to work, while 17% were unsure of their company’s policy regarding vaccination.
This left 28% of those surveyed saying they weren’t confident about returning to work, while 21% were on the fence about it.
Nick Goldberg, Founder of Ezra, said: “It’s understandable that many of us might feel anxious about returning to the workplace while the threat of Covid remains such a big part of our day to day lives. Unfortunately, at these early stages we’re having to do so in the knowledge that either ourselves, or our colleagues, might not be fully vaccinated and remain vulnerable.”
Safety high on the agenda
While enforced vaccination may be off the cards at most offices, the Ezra research suggested employers were taking other measures to help workers feel safe.
These included socially distanced workspaces and a reduced number of staff onsite for 20% of respondents, the removal of social events for 14%, a requirement for PPE at work for 10% and a restriction on the use of communal spaces and kitchens for 10%.
One of the least commonly employed measures was weekly Covid tests, with only 6% of respondents reporting these were being used at their workplace.
However, the Aviva research suggested that workers may be more willing to undergo testing than is perhaps assumed by their employers.
Three-quarters of those surveyed by the insurer said they would be happy to be tested for Covid-19 for work, and only 7% said they would be uncomfortable with such a requirement.
But even without widespread testing, the majority of respondents in that survey felt their organisations had taken the necessary steps to allow them to return to work safely. Only 13% said they still had concerns about their health and safety at work related to coronavirus.
“Our research found that 80% of employees who have been working or furloughed feel confident their workplace is safe and that their employer has standards that they meet to keep employees and the public safe. This is a significant, positive step in our journey back to working normally,” said Aviva’s Andrews.
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