Many workers worried about new COVID strains

'Employers will need to recognize that staying healthy remains a factor in some employees' workplace preferences'

Many workers worried about new COVID strains

As more employers call workers back to the office, more than half of workers in the U.S. are very (18 per cent) or moderately (36 per cent) worried about new strains of COVID-19 spreading.

Over a third (36 per cent) are very or somewhat worried about getting the virus. And there are some who expect infections to increase a great deal (26 per cent) or a moderate amount (43 per cent), according to a survey by Gallup

Only six per cent think it will decrease to any extent.

With this threat, less than half are very (five per cent) or moderately (39 per cent) confident that COVID-19 vaccines will protect people from newer variants of the virus.

On the other hand, a third (33 per cent) of workers are still "very" or "moderately concerned" about the virus — down from 36 per cent in November, finds Gallup’s survey of more 3,600 adults conducted July 26 through Aug. 2, 2022.

And 39 per cent of workers are “not concerned at all” about the virus, up significantly from 23 per cent in the previous survey.

“U.S. workers' concern about being exposed to COVID-19 on the job is at a new low point, but still prevalent enough that it remains a potential hurdle in coaxing remote workers back to the office,” says Gallup.

“While much of society seems to be getting back to pre-pandemic normal, employers will need to recognize that staying healthy remains a factor in some employees' workplace preferences.”

Previously, AT&T workers in the U.S. claimed that they are being forced by their employer to come to the office, breaking away from its agreement to let workers work from home (WFH) until the end of March 2023. In Canada, Royal Bank of Canada’s CEO has asked employees to be in the office more often.

Work from home

Among industries, those working in education (53 per cent) are the most concerned about COVID these days, according to Gallup.

A couple of education stakeholders also criticized Ontario’s latest rules around isolation for those who test positive for COVID, especially as the change came just ahead of back-to-school season.

Over two in five (42 per cent) of healthcare workers, 33 per cent of white-collar workers and 24 per cent of blue-collar workers also expressed concern about COVID, according to Gallup.

Thirty-five per cent of those working partly on-site, partly at home and those working minimally at home or entirely on-site are also concerned about the virus, far ahead of those working exclusively from home (24 per cent).

“Should coronavirus infection rates rise this fall as many workers anticipate, that could strengthen remote workers' resolve to stay put for the time being while potentially compelling some on-site workers to step away,” according to Gallup.

Previously, Suzana Prpic, senior manager, prevention and field services, WorkSafeBC, told Canadian Occupational Safety (COS) the COVID-19 is still spreading, and employers must be vigilant in bringing office workers back to the workplace.

“Employers need to maintain the fundamental measures, and really engage their workers in discussions relating to communicable disease prevention,” she says.

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