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Nearly three-fourths of Washington, D.C. Metro area workers say employers should require vaccines in the workplace, according to new Eagle Hill Consulting research

Employees split on whether unvaccinated employees should return to work in-person 

Employees anticipate different workplace, want employers involved in safety protocols

Arlington, Virginia, June 3, 2021  In a new survey of employee sentiment toward COVID-19 vaccines, Washington, D.C. metro area workers have significantly stronger opinions than workers nationwide about vaccines and safety protocols in the workplace. Seventy-four percent of workers in the region believe that employers should require vaccinations for employees in the workplace, while 72 percent say employers should require COVID-19 vaccination proof.  Sixty-four percent believe employers should offer vaccine incentives. Nearly half (48 percent) of local workers say non-vaccinated employees should not be permitted to work in-person with co-workers. 

Washington area employee sentiments differ substantially from national polling, in which 49 percent of U.S workers believe that employers should require vaccination proof, while 48 percent said employers should require vaccines. And, fewer U.S. workers (35 percent) agree that non-vaccinated employees should not work in-person with co-workers. 

This workforce sentiment research from Eagle Hill Consulting comes as vaccinations continue to rise in the area and on the heels of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announcement that fully vaccinated adults can safely resume activities indoors or outdoors without masks or distancing.   

The 2021 Eagle Hill Consulting Washington, D.C. 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. Conducted by Ipsos from May 12-17, 2021, this survey includes 530 respondents from a random sample of employees in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area – the District of Columbia and portions of Maryland and Virginia. 

“This polling is important for employers in the DMV working to determine the protocols for returning to the workplace,” says, Keri Gentilcore, who manages Eagle Hill’s Washington D.C. office. “The vast majority of workers see vaccine mandates and vaccination proof as important to workplace safety. And despite the CDC’s guidelines on masks and social distancing, workers still want employers involved in encouraging these safety precautions.”

The Eagle Hill polling was fielding as the CDC announced the new guidelines.  

“Where we see a split is how to manage unvaccinated employees in the workplace. About half of Washington metro area employees (48 percent) say non-vaccinated employees should be not allowed to work in-person with co-workers, while 50 percent say non-vaccinated employees should not be given special allowances to work from home,” Gentilcore explained.  “This is going to be tricky for employers to navigate. We’re already seeing employer vaccine incentives in the area, and that may be particularly important for DMV employers given strong employee preferences for vaccinations in the workplace.”  

“Given that the DMV workforce has differing views on these key COVID-19 issues, it is imperative that employers keep the lines of communication open with employees. This means having an ongoing conversation with employees and responding to their concerns. The research also indicates that local employees anticipate their workplace will be different, but we know that even the smallest workplace change often is met with resistance. Employers are prudent to create a change management strategy now, especially because changes around employee health and safety are particularly complex,” Gentilcore said. 

Differing Washington, D.C. Metro Area Employee Views on Unvaccinated Employees

In addition to split views on vaccination mandates, incentives and proof, the research finds that workers are split on how to manage unvaccinated workers. 

  • More than half of area workers (54 percent) say non-vaccinated employees should not be allowed to travel for work. 
  • More than half of area workers (52 percent) say non-vaccinated employees should not be permitted to work in-person with customers. 
  • Half (50 percent) of area workers say non-vaccinated employees should not be given special allowances to work from home.
  • About half of employees (48 percent) say non-vaccinated employees should be not allowed to work in-person with co-workers. 
  • The vast majority of local employees (79 percent) say non-vaccinated employees should be able to stay with their employer.  

Washington Area Employees Have Anticipate a Different Workplace

Washington area workers anticipate that their workplace will be different when they return. When asked about the disruption of COVID-19 on the workplace:

  • Sixty percent expect the number of people working from home will be different. 
  • Fifty-one percent expect their physical workplace will be different. 
  • Half (50 percent) expect people will be working further apart.
  • Forty-five percent expect requirements for testing for COVID-19 symptoms will be different. 
  • Forty-eight percent expect requirements for sanitation like mask wearing will be different. 

COVID Testing & Safety Protocols

In terms of COVID testing, most (43 percent) say that employers should cover the costs for any employer-mandated tests. Twenty-six percent say the federal government should bear the costs, while 14 percent say insurance providers or state/local government (14 percent) should pay for required tests. Only four percent agree employees should pay. 

When asked about the role employers should play with COVID-19 precautions now that  vaccines are widely available, there was broad support for employer involvement.  

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