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National Press Club Discusses Best Practices for COVID-Safe Workplaces

June 30, 2021 by Alexa Hornbeck
National Press Club. (Photo by Dan McCue)

The National Press Club held an event this week to explore some of the key factors relating to safety and security as more employees head back to the workplace.

“The new world post pandemic is all about flexibility, but now we are getting to see this hybrid of three days in office, two days working remotely,” said Johnny Taylor, Jr., president and CEO of the Society for Human Resource Management. 

The SHRM, the largest human resources industry professional association, completed a survey last week in which they surveyed over 1,000 employees about returning to the workplace.

The surveyors found that of those who had returned to the office 85% said they felt comfortable doing so. 

This is a stark contrast to the findings of their 2020 survey , in which half of employees were afraid to go back to the office, and 25% weren’t confident their employer had created a safe and healthy workplace to return to.

The most recent survey also found that 92% of employees are back at work at least partially, and Taylor said that number is expected to increase after Labor Day. 

“Some organizations are already back, some use July 4th as the big day, and a large group of employers are waiting until after Labor Day when people’s kids are back in school,” said Taylor.

 Taylor said it is hard to figure out what percentage of that 15% are truly fearful of coming back to work because of the pandemic, or they just prefer working remotely.

Employees’ desire to not return to in-person work can be influenced by factors like childcare issues, pre-existing health conditions, or fears that the employer hasn’t implemented the proper safety standards, such as social distancing, mask use, or requiring a vaccine.

The study found that only 11% of employers are requiring people to get vaccinated, but Taylor thinks this number will increase, since 63% of workers actually support having a vaccination mandate. 

“I think that as we see this emerging Delta variant, and employees are in the workplace, they are going to put more and more pressure on employers to continue to provide a safe workplace for them,” said Taylor.

Dr. Ethan Berke the chief public health officer of United Health Group, said that there are safety issues employers must consider that extend beyond testing, vaccine mandates, or social distancing, such as how employers will accommodate 10% of the population that had long COVID symptoms, or how mental health issues will be addressed, as they found that 4 in 10 employees are experiencing depression and anxiety.

“What we’re doing today might not be what we’re going to do in the next month,”  said Berke.

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