Understanding Employee Attitudes Toward Vaccination in 2021: Perceptyx Releases New Data


A new study by Perceptyx finds that employees’ sentiment toward vaccination can be influenced by employers to a great extent.

A new study by PerceptyxOpens a new window explores how the COVID vaccine will facilitate return-to-work scenarios. While there is no doubt that COVID-19 vaccines are a welcome advancement in our fight against the pandemic, data indicates that they are neither the sole, nor even the primary factor in employees feeling safe heading back to the office.

Perceptyx asked employees to select the top three mitigation efforts that would help them feel safest returning to the physical workplace. Mask wearing, social distancing, and frequent cleaning stand out and top the list. Requiring employees to be vaccinated ranked fourth, with just over one in four respondents including it in their top three selection. Ranked last on the list was previous illness and subsequent recovery from COVID-19, as there is currently mixed evidence on how long natural immunity may last.

Also read: Empathy in the Workplace: 12 Ways To Outweigh a Paycheck in the COVID-19 World

For organizations hoping to get their employees back into the office in the new year, it may not be as simple as requiring they all get vaccinated: 53% of those surveyed believe employers should not require vaccination of their employees, and 43% note they would consider leaving their organization if they were required to be vaccinated. These sentiments are even stronger for employees who classify themselves as essential workers: 60% of essential workers believe their employers should not require employees to be vaccinated before returning to the physical workplace, and 51% note they would consider leaving their organization if they were required to be vaccinated. Essential workers who continue to work in the physical workspace generally feel more comfortable and safe in the physical workspace than do their colleagues who work from home at least part-time. Organizations would do well to take note of this sentiment when messaging or making policies about vaccination, particularly if they have mixed workforces.

How Can Organizations Manage Employee Vaccination?

The study found that employees are more likely to get vaccinated if their employer encourages them to do so, as opposed to making it a requirement. While 53% of employees said they would likely get a vaccine if it were available today, 56% would get the vaccine if encouraged to do so by their employer. An even greater number of employees – 60% – would take it if their employers offered a monetary incentive of $100 to do so.

Also read: Job Stability and Work-Life Balance: New UKG Survey Shares Top COVID-19 Concerns for the Future Workplace

Perceptyx said that gender and age also play a role in employee attitudes toward vaccination. One group particularly against vaccination is younger males, aged 18-24. This is the only group in which fewer than half indicate they would get the vaccine if their employer recommended it. Targeted messaging can help increase vaccination for this group (who are already more likely to engage in risk-taking behaviors), especially if this messaging comes from their peers.

Additionally, those who feel sincerely cared about by their managers are more likely to trust and be persuaded by their employer’s encouragement to get vaccinated. In particular, employees who responded favorably to the statement, “My manager cares about me as a person” are nearly 2X more likely to get the COVID-19 vaccine if their employer recommended it than are employees who responded unfavorably to the statement. This is yet another indicator that great leadership and investing in the individual and unique needs of employees are critical to an organization’s success.

Employee Sentiment Toward Vaccination

It is clear that employees have split sentiments about the vaccine. Here’s a quick glimpse at the key findings:

    • 60% of employees are fearful of the potential side effects of the vaccine; however, more than 67% believe the research and development of the vaccine is trustworthy.
    • Half (50%) say their employers have encouraged them to get the vaccine when available, while 38% say their organizations are requiring it in order to return to the physical workplace.
    • Just over half (54%) would feel safe returning to the office if they were vaccinated, even if others weren’t, while another 64% believe there is no safe return to work until all employees are vaccinated. Those who are working remotely are more likely to believe there is no safe return without requiring all employees to be vaccinated (68% versus 58%) than are those already working at the office.
    • Just over half (52%) say they would get the vaccine so they would not have to wear a mask at work; however, the CDC still recommends mask wearing even after having received the two doses of the vaccine.

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Organizations continue to face many difficult decisions when it comes to the (actual and perceived) safety of their employees, and about what will become the next normal in the workplace, and how to keep business on track during turbulent times. These decisions are made even more difficult by mixed feelings about the vaccine and the criteria for employees to feel safe returning to the physical workplace. Many of these mixed feelings are based on individual beliefs and specific situations that vary greatly. It is imperative that, given this inconsistency in level of comfort, employers truly understand the needs of their employees and ensure they feel safe and confident before requiring them to return to work.