Top Employee Concerns Related to COVID-19 Variants
Every new COVID-19 variant brings its own set of uncertainty and complications. Will vaccines still work against the next one? What if it isn't detectable through testing anymore?
To find out how these changes are affecting today’s workforce, we conducted an online survey with 601 full-time employees.
The participants were all living in the U.S., working at small to mid-sized businesses (20-500 employees), and between the ages of 18 and 74 years old.
Overall, the employees surveyed top concern relating to COVID-19 variants was infecting loved ones at home after contracting it at work.
However, there were key differences based on age group, parental status, and vaccination status.
43% of respondents reported that bringing COVID-19 back home to family from the workplace was their top concern.
Gen Z respondents were more likely than other generations to feel that COVID-19 variants will impact their employment status in the following ways: losing their job (40%), looking for a new job (31%), or looking for an additional job (33%).
When it comes to Covid-19 variants, single working parents with children living at home (40%) were significantly more likely to be concerned about losing their job than one of two working parents with children living at home (24%), working parents with children no longer living at home (19%), and those who are not working parents (26%).
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Key Findings: How COVID-19 Variants Are Affecting Employee Well-being
#1 "Bringing COVID-19 home from the workplace to my family" is the top variant-related concern
Bringing the virus home from the workplace was the #1 concern when it comes to new variants (43%).
Falling sick at work (29%) was the next most frequently reported concern, followed by "uncertainty about changing quarantine and safety guidelines" and "losing my job" (both 27%), and then "co-workers not being vaccinated" (23%).
Those working in hybrid work environments (50%) were more concerned about bringing COVID-19 home from the workplace than those working fully onsite (41%) and fully offsite (35%).
#2 COVID-19 variants affect various generations differently in terms of their concerns for overall well-being and employment status
Almost half of workers surveyed (49%) reported that COVID-19 variants are not impacting their overall sense of well-being, defined as their mental, social, physical and financial wellness resulting from dynamics both at work and at home.
But there are generational differences when it comes to top worries about variants:
Younger generations are more concerned about losing their job (Gen Z=40%, Millennials=36%, Gen X=16%, Baby Boomers=15%).
Older generations are more worried about co-workers being unvaccinated (Baby Boomers=37%, Gen X=24%, Millennials=19%, Gen Z=16%).
Less than one-third of respondents said they think COVID-19 variants will impact their employment status.
However, Gen Z (44%) was more concerned about variant-related changes to employment compared to other generations. (Baby Boomers=23%, Gen X=24%, Millennials=31%).
For those who felt that COVID-19 will impact their employment status, decreased working hours (42%) and losing their job (33%) were their top concerns.
Within this group, Gen Z (33%) was most likely to look for an additional job (Millennials=24%, Gen X=17%, and Baby Boomers=8%).
Baby Boomers voiced that they were most likely to retire early (32%) compared to younger workers, (Millennials=9%, Gen Z=6%, Gen X=4%).
Those with employers who do not have a COVID-19 vaccine mandate (57%) were more likely to say that COVID-19 variants would not impact their employment status than those with a vaccine mandate (40%).
#3 Single working parents with children living at home are feeling added strain
Single working parents with children living at home (40%) were more likely to be concerned about losing their job than one of two working parents with children living at home (24%), working parents with children no longer living at home (19%), and those who are not working parents (26%).
Both dual (39%) and single (41%) working parents with children living at home were more likely to say that COVID-19 variants will impact their employment status than those without children (20%).
#4 Vaccination status may influence perceptions about COVID-19 variants
Of our sample, 72% were fully vaccinated, 8% were not vaccinated yet but plan to be, 17% were not vaccinated and do not plan to be, and 2% preferred not to share their vaccine status.
Those who were not vaccinated yet and do not plan to be reported being the least impacted by COVID-19 variants. Specifically, 65% of this segment of workers reported that COVID-19 variants were not impacting their overall sense of well-being compared to those who were fully vaccinated (47%) and those who were not fully vaccinated yet, but plan to be (41%).
This segment of workers who were unvaccinated and do not plan to be were also the least concerned about bringing the virus back home to their families (26%) compared to those who were fully vaccinated (47%) and those who were not fully vaccinated yet, but plan to be (59%).
What leaders can take away from these findings
Consider creating a communications plan to address the number one concern among workers in returning to the office: bringing the virus home from the workplace. This is adding increased stress to workers’ mental health, and leaders should consider providing mental health benefits that are on par with their overall health benefits.
Make sure your COVID-19 workplace health & safety plan is up to date with recommendations on how to minimize work-to-home transmission and communicate this to your workforce on a regular basis. Employees are voicing anxiety about keeping loved ones safe when they return to the office.
Recognize that younger generations, particularly Gen Z, are the most prone to uncertainty in their employment status. This generation has grown into adulthood during the stresses associated with COVID-19 and is the most in need of reassurance when it comes to their employment status. Gen Z is also more likely to look for an additional ‘side gig’ (33%) or look for a new job (31%). Employers should communicate how employees can take advantage of new career opportunities, and give them access to relevant training and development.
Consider how you can provide support to parents as they juggle home and work life — they have more anxiety about how variants could affect their employment status and the potential to get their families sick. Consider creating an Employee Resource Group (ERG) for working parents as they are voicing increased concerns about returning to the workplace.
Consider launching pulse surveys to understand employee sentiment around working amid COVID-19 variants and train managers on how to have meaningful conversations with their team members about their concerns regarding returning to in-person work. Use these conversations as an opportunity to share the company’s health and safety protocols and the types of well-being support workers can take advantage of when they are feeling stressed.
“The top concern among workers in returning to in-person work is bringing COVID-19 home from the office to their family – an especially big concern for working parents with children living at home. Parents are managing multiple pandemic related stressors at once, from getting sick at work, to infecting their families, or not knowing if their co-workers are vaccinated. Managers must emotionally support their employees and their families during these uncertain times or risk the possibility them switching to an employer who does.”
- Jeanne Meister, Founding Partner, Future Workplace
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