New Research Reveals One Third of Employees Will Explore New Jobs or Resign if Employers Fail to Create a Safe In-Office Work Environment Amid COVID-19

43% of Employees Report Their Company Has Not Introduced Technologies to Ensure Health And Safety Since Pandemic Started

According to new research released , business leaders report they expect to have 51% or more of their employees back in the physical workplace by January 2021. However, 90.6% of employees will take action if their employer fails to create a safe onsite work environment, including raising concerns to authorities or labor unions (39.5%); exploring new employment opportunities or resigning (30.7%); and considering legal action (20.4%). The 2020 Return-to-Work During the COVID-19 Pandemic Study by Traction Guest also found that 43% of employees report their employer has not introduced any technologies to ensure physical health and safety since the start of the pandemic.

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“Reopening facilities during COVID-19 presents complex challenges for employers. The associated costs and business disruptions are alarming if nearly a third of employees depart because they don’t feel safe onsite. Employers have the choice to either COVID-proof their offices now or risk losing employees,” said Keith Metcalfe, CEO at Traction Guest. “Software can provide significant value by streamlining secure collection of health attestations and COVID-19 screenings while centralizing shift management and emergency communications. This technology can also reassure employees that their health and wellbeing are a top priority.”

Employee Concerns and Confidence About Returning to Work

The 2020 Return-to-Work During the COVID-19 Pandemic Study found that 64.2% of employers report they will return 51% or more of their employees to the physical workplace by the end of January 2021.

Some employers expect to have 75% in-office capacity by this winter:

  • 15.2% of employers plan to have 75% in-office capacity by Winter 2020

  • 27.8% of employers plan to have 75% in-office capacity by Spring 2021

  • 38.3% of employers plan to have 75% in-office capacity by Summer 2021

The study found that more than one quarter (26.2%) of employees do not feel confident in their employer’s approach to inviting staff back to the office. Additionally:

  • Almost a quarter (24.9%) are not confident about their employer’s approach to screening individuals for COVID-19

  • A similar amount (22.7%) do not feel confident about their employer’s communication capabilities for emergency situations

  • Over a quarter (25.9%) of employees do not feel confident about their employer’s ability to accurately account for all people entering their workplace at any given time; and

  • When it comes to their employer’s ability to retain or delete their health-related information and use it appropriately, 21.4% do not feel confident in their employer’s approach.

When asked what precautions would make employees more confident about returning to work, employees identified the following: 

  • Daily screening for COVID-19 symptoms for employees before they arrive onsite at a workplace location (56.8%)

  • Frequent or routine COVID-19 testing for all employees (55.6%)

  • Controlled number of staff returning to work on a given day (50.6%)

Over half (51.8%) of employees feel that employee check-in/checkout systems would make them feel more confident about returning to the workplace amid COVID-19, and security access control systems (39.8%) were named as a technology that would boost employee confidence. However, 43% of employees report that their employer has not introduced any technologies to ensure physical health and safety since the start of the pandemic.

When asked what action they would take if their employer failed to create a safe in-office work environment, employees reported they would: 

  • Raise concerns to authorities or labor unions (39.5%)

  • Explore new employment opportunities or resign (30.7%)

  • Consider legal action against their employer (20.4%)

Employee Health and Safety is the Top Employer Concern

The 2020 Return-to-Work During the COVID-19 Pandemic Study surveyed employers about their concerns regarding bringing employees back to the workplace during the COVID-19 pandemic. Nearly all (87%) of employers reported that employee health and safety risks are the top concern.

Other employer concerns about bringing employees back to work during the pandemic include:

  • Employee retention risks (52.2%)

  • Financial risks (40.8%)

  • Reputational risks (37.3%)

  • Legal duty of care risks (34.8%)

The Future of the ‘Workforce Bubble’

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As the pandemic continues, the concept of COVID bubbles – popularized by recent ‘sports bubble’ practices by the NBA, NHL and MLB with strict isolation, stringent entry and exit policies, and frequent testing – is a potential path forward for returning people to facilities. The 2020 Return-to-Work During the COVID-19 Pandemic Study found that ‘workforce bubbles’ – wherein teams of staff are limited to the same shifts and to single sites or designated areas of the workplace – were cited as a top component of businesses’ plans to return people onsite.

Organizations can approach ‘bubbles’ in various ways that might include more robust shift management, creating static staff cohorts and establishing invitation protocols for site access. The study also found that employees are on board with the concept:

  • Implementing ‘workforce bubbles’ was found to be part of 78.2% of employers’ reopening plans.

  • Over half of employees (67.3%) who were surveyed said they would feel more confident about returning to the workplace if their organization implemented the ‘workforce bubble’ concept.

“While essential employees have continued working onsite throughout the pandemic, many  employees are beginning to return to the office. Many are eager to collaborate with coworkers, separate work from home and perform jobs that are meant to be done at their office or facility,” added Metcalfe. “Controlling staff scheduling through an ‘invite-first’ approach can minimize infection rates, reduce business disruptions, and help with contact tracing. When carefully implemented, this strategy meets regulations regarding health screening and social distancing and gives organizations the ability to more tightly manage the safe return of workers.”

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