As the country reopens, how do full-time employees feel about returning to work—and what safeguards would they like employers to put into place? New research from The Harris Poll and the Institute for Public Relations reveals that non-essential employees want to return to the office only when they feel comfortable doing so, and most of them want staggered returns.
As more companies are planning for the return to work, employees say their safety should be top-of-mind for their employers. Communicating effectively, outlining safety precautions, and ensuring enforcement of guidelines will be critical as will be making sure employees have access to protections, such as sanitizers, PPEs, and physical barriers. The COVID-19 pandemic may also have implications for the future of the open office concept.
Safety also significantly influenced the likelihood employees would support legislative legal protections for companies. Companies who demonstrate accountability for employees were more likely to find support for legal protections, as were companies who are honest and open about their shortcomings.
“Many employees want to return to work only when they feel safe to do so, but this also depends on how much they trust that their company has their safety as the top priority,” said Dr. Tina McCorkindale, president of the Institute for Public Relations. “For companies that ask their non-essential employees to return to the office, they must prepare for the psychological impact of a changing work environment. Masks, social distancing, the discontinuation of some food services, and healthcare checks, among other procedures, will all be a part of the new office structure for the near future and that may be more mentally taxing than working from home.”
This survey was conducted online within the U.S. by The Harris Poll from May 15 to 17, 2020 among a nationally representative sample of 831 U.S. adults who work full time. The margin of error is +/- 3 percent.