Co-worker pressure to get the unvaccinated vaccinated is rising

Face mask hanging on computer screen in an empty office(Getty Images/iStockphoto/gpointstudio)
More Americans are returning to their place of work — and, in a sign employers have done well keeping protocols in place to make them feel safe, a recent survey suggests more employees find their workplaces safer than  restaurants.

In a survey by Arlington, Virginia-based Eagle Hill, a majority of respondents — 64% vs. 36% — said they felt more comfortable going in-person to an office or other workplace than to a restaurant.

But more peace of mind comes when vaccinated employees know their co-workers have been vaccinated too, and are putting more pressure on the unvaccinated.

The Eagle Hill survey found that while employees evenly split at 50% to 50% as to whether employers should mandate vaccines before workers return to the workplace, there is strong support for incentivizing the unvaccinated to get the shots.

“We found that employees are increasingly supportive of punitive actions,” said Melissa Jezior, CEO at Eagle Hill. “Employees are burned out. We’re all burned out on COVID, and we want some sense of normalcy to return. And so getting more people vaccinated perhaps is the path to do that.”

In its survey, 63% of workers said non-vaccinated employees should not be given special allowances to work from home, up from 55% who said so in April. Another 40% said their non-vaccinated co-workers should not be allowed to work in person with vaccinated co-workers, up 35% from April.

Another incentive may be requiring unvaccinated employees to pay higher insurance premiums. It would be legal for companies to do that.

“There is a precedent. Tobacco use for example. When we asked about whether unvaccinated employees should pay a higher insurance rate, a large share of workers — 41% — actually are supportive,” Jezior said.

Older workers were more likely to approve of higher insurance costs for unvaccinated workers than younger ones.

Other findings from Eagle Hill’s survey:

  • 58% said they support employers asking about working vaccination status.
  • 77% say social distancing should continue to be required or encouraged.
  • 73% say employers should continued to be required or encourage masks.

Eagle Hill advises firms to remain flexible and listen to employee views, not only to navigate through pandemic uncertainty, but to retain employees.

“It is even more important for employers to fully understand what employees want given the acute labor shortage. Unlike the early days of the pandemic, workers aren’t afraid to quit their jobs,” Jezior said.

Eagle Hill received survey responses from 1,010 employees across the U.S. from April 7 through April 9. Full survey results are posted online.

Jeff Clabaugh

Jeff Clabaugh has spent 20 years covering the Washington region's economy and financial markets for WTOP as part of a partnership with the Washington Business Journal, and officially joined the WTOP newsroom staff in January 2016.

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