Most Employees Don’t Want To Return To The Office Until Everyone’s Vaccinated

Most employees currently working from home believe a COVID-19 vaccine should be required before people return to their offices, according to a new survey from Glassdoor.

In the survey of 2,072 U.S. adults conducted last month, 70% of those working from home said that they and their colleagues should be required to get a COVID-19 vaccine before they return to work. A significant number of respondents were willing to stake their jobs on it: 23% said they would consider quitting if they are required to return to an office before all employees have been vaccinated.

The return to offices is already increasingly unpopular. Previous research shows that an end to the pandemic is not enough to lure workers back to traditional offices. According to an October survey by the Pew Research Center, a majority of workers want to keep working from home even after the coronavirus outbreak ends.

Most — but not all — respondents to the Glassdoor survey said they would get the vaccine when it becomes available to them, and it varied by age: 66% aged 18 to 34 said they intend to get a COVID-19 vaccine when available, while 81% of people ages 35 to 44 and over 74% of people over 45 said the same.

Even if most employees want everyone at their job to be vaccinated before going back to work together, that may not be legally possible, due to medical and religious exemptions. The federal government does not mandate COVID-19 vaccines, although some state and local laws (and certain some employers) may still be able to require it.

There is a strong public health argument to ensuring that your colleagues are vaccinated before you enter a shared workspace –– at least until we achieve herd immunity and cases are low in the surrounding area.

“If you only have half the people vaccinated [at work] and you have half the people susceptible to infection, that will be enough for this virus to propagate,” said Thomas Russo, chief of the infectious disease division at the University of Buffalo in New York.

Getting vaccinated doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t be able to transmit COVID-19 to your non-vaccinated colleagues.

“Vaccinated people are protected against severe disease that results in hospitalizations and death, but they still have a small but finite chance, depending on the vaccine, of developing symptomatic disease, and probably a slightly greater chance of developing asymptomatic disease where they can transmit it to others as well,” Russo said. “That’s why we need both pieces in there. … When we hit the critical numbers, [that] will afford that widespread community protection that all of us want.”