Re-Opening the Economy: Employees in U.S. Concerned About Exposure to COVID-19 in the Workplace

Employees are expressing concerns about their safety as many states are starting to go back to work.

According to a new poll by Eagle Hill Consulting, 54% of U.S. employees say they are worried about exposure to COVID-19 at their job. The survey was conducted from April 22-27, 2020, which included 1,000 respondents from a random sample of employees.

Workers indicate several factors would make them feel safe to return to work;

  • the availability of protective protections like masks, gloves, and hand sanitizer (58%)
  • mandating employees with symptoms stay home (55%)
  • and making COVID-19 tests available (53%)

Fifty-six percent say that employers have the right to know if workers have tested positive for COVID-19, while 43% support employers testing for symptoms. Few employees (17%) believe their jobs would be impacted by their test results.

“In the coming weeks, employers and workers will encounter perhaps the most significant and rapid changes to the workplace we have ever encountered in modern history,” says Melissa Jezior, CEO of Eagle Hill Consulting, in a statement.

“Change management is a steep struggle for most employers, and implementing such massive modifications to how we work will not be easy,” Jezioro added. “The number one focus of employers right now should be employee engagement.  That means understanding at the most granular level employee sentiment about COVID-19, their challenges returning to the workplace, and how to keep the workforce safe – and then taking action to address employee feedback.”

“The good news is that employees have confidence (71%) that their employers can bring them back to work safely. But, that puts a big burden on employers. Employees want testing, protective gear and careful monitoring of the workforce.  Those expectations for most companies will be difficult to deliver given shortages and high costs,” Jezioro explained.

Key findings of the survey include:

  • 43% of workers support employers testing for symptoms.
  • 44% of employees want COVID-19 testing available through their doctor, 40% it from local government, while 39% want testing via their employer.
  • Only 17% of employees believe their jobs would be impacted by their test results, and few (15%) have concerns about how employers will use COVID-19 test results.
  • Most employees (71%) say their employers will be prepared to safely bring employees back to the workplace.
  • Employees would like organizations to continue transparency and open communication from leadership (44%); remote work flexibility (42%); and employee wellness efforts (41%).