Will You Mandate Vaccines with the Return to Office?

Nearly every organization is having to make tough decisions about remote work, return to the office, flexible policies, and everything in between—and those decisions will have a profound impact on culture, employer brand, and the ability to attract and retain talent.

CVS, Deloitte, and Disney recently announced they were requiring vaccinations for employees, joining a growing list of major companies which have done the same. This call was led by i4cp CEO and co-founder Kevin Oakes, and continued our conversation from last time on vaccine mandates and how organizations are navigating the complexities of making such a decision and related issues around the return to the office, hybrid work, and more. Some highlights include:

  • Oakes shared some of the recent results from an i4cp pulse survey on vaccine mandates. We then polled participants on the call, asking "Has your organization made changes (return to office, vaccine-related, masks, hybrid, etc.) based on the Delta variant?" 85% said Yes, 7% said No, and 8% said Not yet, but we will.
  • A second participant poll asked "Has your organization mandated vaccinations for employees?" 18% said Yes, 54% said No, and 28% said We are considering it.
  • Decisions are being made very quickly, but also are changing over time, as more or altered information becomes available. So many decisions need to be framed today as provisional.
  • There are also many nuances to vaccine mandates, even going beyond the typical exclusions based on religion or health issues. Some organizations are requiring vaccination only for those who are coming into the workplace, not for remote workers. Some require masks for all, others only for the unvaccinated. Some also require frequent testing for the unvaccinated. It is also not a good idea to tie vaccination status to remote work availability in both directions, as there are many who are vaccinated but who want to remain entirely or largely remote.
  • Recent i4cp pulse survey results found that very few organizations are using badge/etc. signifiers (color codes, etc.) to indicate vaccination status, as doing so is problematic in many ways (privacy, logistical issues, historical references, etc.)
  • Several on the call noted the impact that inflexibility around hybrid/remote work and other requirements is having for recruitment. One participant noted a company that found they lose 86% of their candidates once the recruiter mentions the inflexible policy.
  • Lindsay Rice and Kari Naimon from i4cp shared information on two i4cp hybrid work toolkits that are in development, one to support HRBPs and one to support managers. Several participants on the call noted what they would find most valuable in such resources, such as best practices around collaboration, leading compassionately and inclusively, maintaining and improving culture, navigating equality in making workplace decisions, and more.
  • One participant noted that their CEO is concerned that without a return to the office, they will lose their "we" culture. Another chimed in with these provocative thoughts: My response to CEO concern on losing the "we" culture - I'd ask him the question, "What's the evidence that the "we" culture was missing during the last 1.5 years of remote work?" I hear this a lot from companies - statements like we lost collaboration, people can't experience our culture, etc..  Another question to ask, "If those statements are true, do you believe anyone who started remotely during the pandemic has never experienced our "we" culture?"
  • More myth busting came from another participant: We just completed an employee experience survey, our sales team which has always been 100% remote -- scores the highest in the org on employee engagement.
  • Another question posed by a participant: "How are others preventing non-exempt (hourly) workers from remotely working unreported overtime?" Several said in response that it is critical to communicate very strongly that permission for overtime must be obtained first. To the extent liability in this area could still arise, then the focus needs to shift to work goals/requirements, performance management, etc. so that overtime won't be seen as needed to get the work done. For legal cover, you can also have an attestation on every timesheet to have the employee attest that they have correctly and fully recorded all hours worked.
  • Additional i4cp resources and links shared on the call include:
  • Additional external resources shared by call participants: