As the United States’ vaccination rollout gains momentum, millions of American workers are expected to return to their office desks once again this summer. But for many of them, workplace safety remains a big concern.
Results of a national online survey, conducted by edtech firm MindEdge Learning, show that 59% of those who have not yet returned to the workplace are concerned they will be required to come back before it is safe to do so. MindEdge’s second annual survey on remote work, The State of Remote Work 2021: The Age of the Hybrid Workplace, found that concerns about workplace safety are most pronounced in the Technology (78%) and Healthcare (67%) sectors.
At the same time, vaccine mandates appear to be finding favor among many businesses. A full 40% of survey respondents have been told that they must be vaccinated in order to return to work, while only 14% have been told that vaccinations will not be required.
Another 47% have not heard one way or the other about a vaccination requirement. Within this group, expectations are mixed: 36% expect vaccinations to be required; 34% do not think they will be required; and 30% are unsure.
Hybrid work model inspires FOMO, productivity concerns
Many companies are also embracing the hybrid work model, under which workers divide their work time between home and office. Just under half (49%) of survey respondents say their companies will institute a hybrid work schedule in 2021 and, on average, workers say they would like to spend 3.3 days per week in their office or place of work.
Only a quarter (24%) say they would like to work in their office or place of work all five days. Roughly the same number (27%) say they would like to spend only one or two days a week in the office.
“We’re on the cusp of a new workforce culture where having everyone in the office at the same time will no longer be the norm,” said Frank Connolly, director of research at MindEdge Learning. “Instead, most companies are creating a hybrid environment with a mix of remote and in-person workers. This will come with its own challenges, and companies will need to implement new processes for hiring, training, and maintaining culture.”
In general, workers do not express strong reservations about adapting to the hybrid work model. When asked to choose from a pre-selected list of concerns about hybrid work arrangements, fully 37% say they have no concerns whatsoever. Of those who do express some concern, the top worries are missing out on camaraderie with colleagues (20%) and being less productive at work (17%).
Neither are workers greatly concerned that choosing to work remotely may cost them a chance at a raise or promotion. Only 33% of survey respondents say that workers who do not work remotely will do better, in terms of raises and promotions, than those who choose to work remotely. Two-of-five (42%) say it won’t make a difference, and 15% think that remote workers will actually do better than those who don’t work remotely.
Perhaps significantly, members of management are more likely (39%) to say that remote workers will come up short, in terms of raises and promotions.
Mixed reactions to the remote-work experience
A year into the nation’s remote-work experiment, workers’ reactions are decidedly mixed. Thirty-seven percent of survey respondents feel that remote work has had a negative effect on their mental health, while nearly a quarter (24%) of workers feel that working remotely has had a positive effect on their mental health. The most common activities for reducing stress while working remotely include going outside for a walk/fresh air (51%), catching up on movies and TV (35%), and taking breaks to spend time with family (33%)
Compared to the results of MindEdge’s 2020 survey, State of Remote Work 2020: The Age of the Pandemic, respondents in this year’s survey are somewhat more upbeat about the effect of remote work on their job situations. Just under two-of-five (37%) say that working remotely has made their jobs easier, up from 26% last year. One-of-four (24%) say that working remotely has made their jobs harder, down slightly from 30% in 2020. In both years, a substantial number of respondents said that working remotely had made their jobs easier and more difficult.
Among those who say that remote work has made their jobs easier, 66% cite increased flexibility, while 55% cite shorter commute times. Among those who say that remote work has made their jobs harder, 60% cite technological problems, while 56% cite the increased number of meetings and phone calls.
Hiring and certifications
In another sign that better times may be on the horizon, 55% of managers say their companies are now hiring – up from 37% in last year’s survey. The current hiring outlook is rosiest in the Technology sector (60%), and least optimistic in the Manufacturing sector (45%).
Among managers whose companies are hiring, fully 80% say that certifications – exam-based credentials awarded by an industry-recognized authority, such as the Project Management Institute – add value to a job candidate’s résumé. Two-of-five (39%) say that certifications add a great deal of value. These figures are higher than we saw in last year’s survey, when 72% of managers said certifications add value, and 28% said they add a great deal of value.
Training a remote workforce
Similar to what we saw in last year’s survey, just over half (56%) of respondents say they have received remote-work training through their company. Among those who have not received such training, 41% say they would find it helpful.
In response to a separate question, 84% of managers say they would find it helpful to receive training in how to manage remote workers – including 56% who would find such training very helpful.
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