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The challenging landscape of employee sentiment on returning to work

Let’s start in the UK – the 2021 impact of COVID-19 on SMEs survey by JumpCloud, and US listeners will hear similarities. that there were different attitudes from firms in Greater London, with 72.8% taking steps to mandate vaccinations, compared to just 44.9% in the rest of the country. That also correlated with areas outside of London being less likely to drive vaccinations.   The JumpCloud survey found that 53.2% of respondents are currently rethinking the plan to return to the office and 14.8% have already delayed getting staff back in the office.

The US data — Over three in five hiring managers would ask about the vaccination status of a job candidate, with Republicans (69%) more likely to ask than Democrats (54%), a new study finds. An even higher percentage (61%) said the answers to those vaccination questions would impact their ultimate hiring decision, according to a study by online invoicing provider Skynova.   The research includes mental health insights – there’s nearly the same concern over mental health as there is physical, 23% to 28%.

A survey of 3,500 US workers commissioned by GoodHire, an employment screening service provider, found that more than two-thirds (68%) would choose remote working over working from an office — a sentiment that has been echoed thoroughly by white-collar workers who have enjoyed the freedom and flexibility of working from home during the pandemic.

So hesitant are employees to return to the office, in fact, that 61% of those surveyed said they would be willing to take a pay cut in exchange for being able to work from home permanently. Some even suggested they’d sacrifice up to 50% of their current wage to do so.

More than half of respondents to GoodHire’s survey said they would not feel safe heading back into the office because of new coronavirus outbreaks, while 84% said they would want to see mandatory mask-wearing, proof of vaccination, capacity limits and regular sanitizing in place before going into a workplace.

 45% of US workers surveyed said they would quit their job immediately or begin searching for a new, remote job if they were forced by their employer to return to the office full-time.

All this on the heels of the FDA approving the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. 

Why do we care?

These are the real conditions of operating a business right now, and why I spend as much time on these issues as I do.   It’s all well and good to debate the value of a service like data management, but if you don’t have people showing up to work, it doesn’t really matter, does it?

When I do analysis of companies, I use a view I call the three L’s.   Leaders, Laggards, and Lost their Mind.    That last one is for groups that just go rogue in ways that will push many customers away.     Laggard doesn’t mean anything bad – it’s simply organizations which are following rather than leading.   Leading companies take action and are among first movers.    United’s CEO spoke to Axios abut why they instituted vaccine mandates – because he was tired of watching employees die. 

Leadership isn’t easy – and here’s where business leaders are now pushed to make a decision.    I think we’re entering a stage where sentiment allows a comfortable movement from most business leaders around mandates and reopening plans that are more safely in that laggard category than taking a bold risk as a leader.  That’s not a bad thing.