What are the health specialists saying? Even if you get the COVID-19 vaccine, you will need to continue observing social restrictions, including the wearing of masks and practicing distancing. Why? Despite the chances of a COVID-19 vaccinated employee getting COVID-19 after getting the shot, he or she can still transmit it from contact with others.
Ergo, safety first is the new norm.
That may have been in the minds of 130 HR leaders surveyed by Gartner on December 9, 2020 when they agreed, in aggregate, to consider letting employees continue to work remotely at least part of the time, even after the COVID-19 vaccine is widely adopted.
“With a COVID-19 vaccine rollout approaching, HR leaders are now faced with an onslaught of questions, including if they can or should require employees to be vaccinated, what the employer’s responsibility is in helping employees and their families get vaccinated, and how the release of vaccines impacts their return-to-the-workplace strategy,” said Elisabeth Joyce, vice president of advisory in the Gartner HR practice.
Sixty-five percent of respondents reported that their organization will continue to offer employees flexibility on when they work.
As discussions around the forthcoming COVID-19 vaccine continue, 109 HR leaders who responded to Gartner’s survey predict that about 50% of the workforce will want to return to the workplace – at least part time – once a vaccine is made widely available.
Sixty-two percent of 118 HR leaders surveyed reported that they are planning to continue all safety measures they have put in place once a COVID-19 vaccine is available.
Nearly one-third of respondents noted they would no longer require masks in the workplace nor enforce social distancing in high-traffic areas.
The human experience
My niece in New York is happy that she can work from home but that’s because her job allows her to even from day one. Others, like my sister also in New York, have adopted to the remote work – in part because she doesn’t have to take the 1.5-hour daily commute and because much of their systems is now digitised.
For us in Asia, its another story. Yes, it would be great that we don’t have to rush through breakfast, fuss over what to wear (my wife, not me) or make sure the house is tidied-up a bit before leaving it alone for the rest of the day. I do miss cajoling colleagues or berating my boss (I’ll find an excuse) but staying away from an office has its benefits too – you can concentrate with no one around to ask for something – an opinion, report, etc.
Strategy during a resurgence
The wait for a vaccine continues for many around the world. Yes, distribution has started in some markets, but it will take until the end of 2021 (optimistically) before a sizeable portion of the global population will have been vaccinated.
Right now, the new and more aggressive strain COVID-19 identified in the UK is causing panic even in the cities already receiving the vaccines. Concerns about the ability of the current batch of vaccines to go up against the new strain are being called out. Some politicians are saying to give people a chance to choose which vaccine to get – as if you are in a supermarket and have a shelf full of options to choose from.
“Right now, organizations are considering different policies for employees who receive the vaccine and those who do not,” said Joyce. “What is most critical is that HR leaders are making these decisions with the expectation that they may need to course correct as we learn more.”
Among 136 HR leaders surveyed, 46% said their organization has already, or will, shut down offices that had previously been reopened; 37% reported extending new benefits to employees, such as childcare assistance and additional sick leave.
When a COVID-19 vaccine becomes available, 60% of 116 HR leaders surveyed said they will encourage employees to get vaccinated, but it will not be required. Sixty percent of respondents reported they will provide resources to employees on where and how to get vaccinated and 44% said they plan to cover or subsidize the costs of the vaccine for employees.
Joyce noted that while there are concerns around the COVID-19 vaccine, including privacy and data security, ultimately, there are many factors involved in making decisions around an organization’s vaccination strategy, including local government regulations.
“Therefore, it is critical that HR leaders work closely with their legal and compliance partners,” she advised.