Employees Leery as Governments Push to Reopen Business

One Employee

What if they reopened a workplace and nobody clocked in? That seems to be a question worth pondering for many employers as more data reveals that employees and consumers are putting their personal safety at the top of their list of things to worry about.

The latest indication comes from Qualtrics, whose Return to Work & Back to Business Study found that the majority of workers aren’t comfortable with the idea of returning to workplace right now.

Most U.S. workers aren't comfortable with the idea of returning to the workplace – and won't be for some time. #HR #HRTech @Qualtrics #COVID-19 Click To Tweet

The company asked more than 2,000 Americans how confident they were about returning to the workplace or visiting public establishments, and what would be needed to make them feel comfortable.

  • Most people—66 percent—aren’t comfortable with the notion of returning to work, a sentiment held by a majority of workers of all ages, from Boomers to Gen Z.
  • Nearly as many, about 63 percent, want to hear assurances from public health organizations like the CDC or World Health Organization before they go back to their workplace.
  • Even once they have such assurances, most want to be able to wear masks and maintain social distancing at work. Half want more flexible sick-leave policies, and 49 percent want to be able to limit the number of people they’re exposed to in meetings.
  • In general, people aren’t comfortable with the idea of interacting with others in person. Some 68 percent are uncomfortable with the idea of playing a team sport, 60 percent wouldn’t want to attend a religious service and 51 percent are still uneasy with the thought of going to a retail store.
  • And while some governors and business groups are increasing their pressure to “reopen the economy,” nearly half of workers don’t expect to return to their organization’s facilities until August or later. A quarter believe they’re go back to work in May, and 28 percent expect to do so in June.

Reopen Business With Care

Mike Maughan, Qualtrics’ head of global insights, suggested businesses may be giving short shrift to the role perception plays as people form their opinions.

“While most organizations are looking at facts like hospitalization and testing rates as they reopen workplaces and businesses, it is equally important to understand perceptions—how people feel,” he said. “Our study found that most Americans still feel uncomfortable returning to public spaces. Organizations will need to know what actions they can take to help customers and employees feel confident during this next phase of the pandemic.”

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