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Rise of delta variant triggers return to workplace concerns for nearly half of greater Boston workers

New Eagle Hill Consulting research finds 41 percent of Boston area workers support higher insurance rates for unvaccinated workers
Most Bostonians support employer mandates for vaccinations and vaccine documentation

Boston, Ma., September 1, 2021 – Forty-six percent of Greater Boston workers say that the rise of the COVID-19 delta variant impacts their willingness to return to the workplace. Fifty-eight percent of workers say the variant has increased concerns about contracting COVID-19. Most workers say the variant means they will take extra precautions at work (65 percent) and in their personal life (68 percent). Employees indicate that they would feel more comfortable in their workplace (62 percent) than going to a restaurant (38 percent) during the ongoing pandemic. 

When asked about whether unvaccinated employees should pay higher insurance rates, a large share of Boston workers (41 percent) are supportive of such a move. And most Greater Boston employees (56 percent) support employer vaccines mandates before employees return to the workplace, as large employers in Boston like State Street announce vaccine requirements.   

This workforce sentiment research from Eagle Hill Consulting comes as federal regulators have granted full approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine and as many employers announce delays in back to the workplace plans due to rising COVID-19 delta variant cases, hospitalizations and deaths, largely among the unvaccinated. 

The 2021 Eagle Hill Consulting Boston COVID-19 Vaccines and the Workplace Survey measures employee sentiment about COVID-19 vaccines, returning to the workplace, as well as testing and safety protocols. 

“Approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is a game changer for Greater Boston employers,” says Jonathan Gove, who leads Eagle Hill Consulting’s Boston office. With Food and Drug Administration licensing, Boston employers are on firmer ground for mandating worker vaccinations.”

“At the same time, the COVID-19 summer surge is upending Boston employers return to the workplace plans,” Gove said. “Much of the Greater Boston workforce is worried about the delta variant, and many employers are taking action. They’re pushing back return to the workplace dates, requiring vaccines for workers, and maintaining stringent health and safety protocols.” 

“Boston employers must remain flexible and listen to employee views, so they can navigate through more COVID-19 uncertainty. Employers need to stay in tune with employee preferences given the acute labor shortage. Unlike the early days of the pandemic, Boston workers aren’t fearful of quitting their jobs. Keeping talent means creating a culture and work environment – virtual or in person – that is aligned with the workforce,” Gove explained.     

Conducted by Ipsos from August 11-16, 2021, this national survey includes 522 employees in the Greater Boston area. This poll follows similar research conducted from May 12-17, 2021.

Greater Boston employees support employer action as workers return to in-person work, according to the research. 

  • More than half of employees (56 percent) support employer vaccines mandates before workers return to the workplace.  
  • Employees are even more supportive (64 percent) of employers asking about worker vaccination status. 
  • A large share of workers support employers requiring provide proof of vaccination, with 60 percent supporting a documentation requirement.   
  • 68 percent of workers support employers offering incentives to vaccinated employees. 
  • Two-thirds (66 percent) support employers instituting precautions for unvaccinated employees. 

Boston employees support punitive actions for unvaccinated employees, the polling reveals. 

  • Nearly two-thirds (62 percent) of workers say non-vaccinated employees should not be given special allowances to work from home. 
  • More than half of workers (56 percent) say non-vaccinated employees should not be allowed to travel for work. 
  • More than half of workers (54 percent) say non-vaccinated employees should not be permitted to work in-person with customers.
  • Nearly half workers (46 percent) say non-vaccinated employees should be not allowed to work in-person with co-workers. 

There is broad support among Greater Boston workers for employer COVID-19 testing and safety protocols according to the survey. 

  • Regarding social distancing, 81 percent concur that employers should require or encourage social distancing.
  • Regarding masks, 78 percent agree on employers requiring or encouraging mask use.
  • When it comes to regular COVID-19 testing for all employees, 69 percent support employers requiring or encouraging testing.
  • For temperature checks at the workplace, 68 percent say employers should encourage or require temperature checks.

Eagle Hill Consulting LLC is a woman-owned business that provides unconventional management consulting services in the areas of Strategy & Performance, Talent, and Change. The company’s expertise in delivering innovative solutions to unique challenges spans across the private, public, and nonprofit sectors, from financial services to healthcare to media & entertainment. Eagle Hill has offices in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area, Boston, MA and Seattle, WA. More information is available at www.eaglehillconsulting.com.

Media Contact: Susan Nealon | 703.229.8600 | snealon@eaglehillconsulting.com | @WeAreEagleHill