Only 50% of employees believe office spaces are safe and even fewer trust their CEOs and senior managers to ensure their workers are protected from getting or spreading the virus, according to a recent survey.

“In most countries, only a quarter or more will go back to the office before Christmas,” public relations firm Edelman wrote in a report published in September.

The company surveyed 3,400 workers in seven countries—France, Germany, India, Singapore, South Korea, the United Kingdom, and the U.S.—in August.

It found that there is no consensus among employees about who has to make the ultimate decision about when workers should return to the workplace.

Health authorities, state and local government, national government, and workers themselves each earned about the same share of employee confidence—around 20 percent, the report said.

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Another key finding is that only 14 percent of employees trust CEOs and senior managers to safely lead them back to work.

In the meantime, workers reported strong confidence in their ability to work from home.

“Three-quarters trust their employers when they say that working remotely will not harm their career. More than two-thirds say that companies have communicated effectively on return to workplace,” the company noted.

Steps to Take

Edelman says businesses should implement the following measures to build and sustain employee confidence over a gradual return to the office:

1- Establish a partnership with local governments and health authorities to ease employees’ concerns through measures such as organizing safer commuting options and instituting flexible start and end times.

2- Disseminate high-quality, reliable information from expert sources to fill the information void consistently.

3- Follow the guidelines set out by health officials and keep reminding employees of the importance of their responsibility, including wearing a mask and maintaining the recommended social distance.

4- Insist on contact tracing and testing, even if asymptomatic people..

5- Be as transparent as possible when an employee gets sick.

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6- As the economy recovers, restore salaries that were cut, pay bonuses for those that showed a solid performance despite the pandemic and promote those who deserve it.

7- Create a new position of Chief Public Health Officer, as proposed by Michelle Williams, dean of Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, as it can help solve public health challenges that intersect with business priorities such as vaccine adoption, the wellness of the workforce, and social justice.  

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