First Press Vol. 25 No. 09

Survey: As Workplaces Reopen, 42% of Workers Fear Getting COVID

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As the Delta variant continues to proliferate and workers head into the Labor Day weekend, 42 percent of workers are worried about returning to the workplace for fear of contracting COVID-19. This marks a substantial jump from June 2021 when only 24 percent had that concern.

“With headlines about the rise of the Delta variant, breakthrough cases among the vaccinated, and an overburdened healthcare system in much of the country, COVID-19 concerns that were subsiding just two months ago have risen,” said Rebecca Ray, PhD, Executive Vice President of Human Capital at The Conference Board.

Conducted in August by The Conference Board, the new survey captured the thoughts of more than 2,400 US workers on topics including return-to-work anxiety, factors driving them to pursue new job opportunities, opinions about remote work, and more. 

The survey findings also reveal that more than one-third of workers may leave their jobs within the next six months. The driving factor: a desire for flexible work arrangements. Indeed, 80 percent cite work arrangements as very important or important in their decision to leave their current job. Survey respondents rank a flexible work location as the most desired aspect of a new job, prioritizing it slightly over better pay and career advancement, the two traditional drivers of job changes. 

Key findings from the nationwide survey include: 

As Delta surges, 4 in 10 workers fear COVID-19 exposure.

  • 42 percent of respondents are worried about returning to the workplace for fear of contracting COVID-19 or exposing family. Just two months ago, only 24 percent were concerned about personally contracting it, and 28 percent were concerned about exposing family. When it comes to returning to the workplace, women are more concerned than men about COVID exposure, job security, and mental health:

    Contracting COVID-19 personally:
    Women: 48 percent
    Men: 37 percent

    Exposing family members:
    Women: 46 percent
    Men: 40 percent

    Pressure to return to the workplace to keep their jobs:
    Women: 25 percent
    Men: 15 percent

    Deterioration of mental health:
    Women: 27 percent
    Men: 11 percent

    Millennials are also more concerned than other generations about COVID exposure, job security, and mental health:

    Contracting COVID-19 personally:
    Millennial: 53 percent
    Gen X: 41 percent
    Baby Boomer: 45 percent

    Exposing family members:
    Millennial: 61 percent
    Gen X: 42 percent
    Baby Boomer: 40 percent

    Pressure to return to the workplace to keep their jobs:
    Millennial: 30 percent
    Gen X: 21 percent
    Baby Boomer: 19 percent

    Deterioration of mental health:
    Millennial: 38 percent
    Gen X: 21 percent
    Baby Boomer: 16 percent

Among the greatest concerns employees have in returning to the workplace are the lack of adherence to safety guidelines by colleagues, which rose from 28% in June 2021 to 33% in August 2021. Additionally, the percentage of employees fearing that returning to the workplace only to have it shut down again doubled from June to August 2021.

Workers, especially women and Millennials, continue to question the wisdom of returning to the workplace given the belief that productivity remained high while working remotely. More than one-third may leave their organizations within the next six months with the desire for a flexible work location being a primary driver in employee turnover. Unfortunately, this is not an option for restaurant and hospitality employees.

Until a greater percentage of the population becomes vaccinated and/or mask mandates are re-instated, the hospitality industry will continue to struggle under the burden of COVID-19.

About The Conference Board
The Conference Board is the member-driven think tank that delivers trusted insights for what’s ahead. Founded in 1916, we are a non-partisan, not-for-profit entity holding 501 (c) (3) tax-exempt status in the United States. www.conference-board.org

Feature image: Rendy Novantino on Unsplash

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